Imitation game: Attention, un martyr peut en cacher un autre (Hollywood fails the Turing test)

Turing Bombe Machine and Christopher Machine (movie)

Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude.  G.K. Chesterton
Parfois, ce sont les gens dont on attend le moins qui font des choses auxquelles personne ne s’attendait. Joan Clarke (The Imitation game)
Personne n’aurait pu faire ça. Tu sais, ce matin… J’étais dans un train qui a traversé une ville qui sans toi n’existerait pas. J’ai acheté un billet d’un homme qui sans toi serait probablement mort. Au travail, j’ai lu tout un champ de recherche scientifique qui n’existe que grâce à toi. Maintenant, tu peux regretter de ne pas avoir été normal… Moi, jamais je le regretterais. Le monde est un endroit infiniment meilleur, justement parce que tu ne l‘étais pas. Joan Clarke (The Imitation game)
 Félicitations ! Tu viens d’échouer au Test de Turing… Blague d’informaticien
Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game? (…) We now ask the question, « What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game? » Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman? These questions replace our original, « Can machines think? Alan Turing
Le test a été inspiré d’un jeu d’imitation dans lequel un homme et une femme vont dans des pièces séparées et les invités tentent de discuter avec les deux protagonistes en écrivant des questions et en lisant les réponses qui leur sont renvoyées. Dans ce jeu l’homme et la femme essaient de convaincre les invités qu’ils sont tous deux des femmes. À l’origine Turing a imaginé ce test pour répondre à sa question existentielle : « une machine peut-elle penser ? », en donnant une interprétation plus concrète de sa question. Une idée intéressante de sa proposition de test est que les réponses doivent être données dans des intervalles de temps définis. Il imagine que cela est nécessaire pour que l’observateur ne puisse pas établir une conclusion qui soit fondée sur le fait qu’un ordinateur puisse répondre plus rapidement qu’un homme, surtout sur des questions de mathématiques. (…) Dans la publication de Turing, le terme « Jeu d’imitation » est utilisé pour sa proposition de test. Le nom de « Test de Turing » semble avoir été inventé en 1968 par Arthur C. Clarke dans ses nouvelles de science-fiction dont a été tiré le film 2001, l’Odyssée de l’espace. Wikipedia
La science est ici vue comme un résultat personnel, une activité autiste, plutôt que comme une longue déduction collective, un dialogue avec des penseurs contemporains et passés. Jamais le nom de John von Neumann, rival et autre père de l’informatique, n’est ici mentionné. Imitation Game passe à côté d’une histoire ahurissante et réelle, esquive les relations de pouvoir inhérentes à l’invention technologique, comme le fit brillamment David Fincher avec The Social Network. Le grand film d’archéologie de l’informatique reste à faire. Clément Ghys
Overall, the movie works: It’s fun, it’s gripping and it features a brilliant performance from Cumberbatch. But like so many other Hollywood biopics, it takes some major artistic license — which is disappointing, because Turing’s actual story is so compelling.(…) The biggest real-life drama is unmentioned in the film, Hodges says. In February 1942, the Germans adopted a more complex Enigma machine for naval communications, again putting the Allies in the dark. “It was a major crisis,” Hodges says. In desperation, Turing and American partners ran multiple bombes in parallel and used electronic components to speed up the code-breaking process. Finally, in early 1943, the Allies succeeded in cracking the code. The consequences of the 1942 Enigma upgrade went far beyond the war. The introduction to electronics, Hodges says, offered Turing a practical means for incorporating his 1936 conceptual ideas into a revolutionary machine — the digital computer. “The scientific story is much bigger than just the Enigma problem,” Hodges says. “It was a great movement in which ideas and new technology came together.” The Imitation Game ignores much of this history, and it also includes an egregious, historically inaccurate storyline in which Turing fails to report a Soviet spy to avoid being outed as gay. Nonetheless, the acting, suspense and a surprising amount of humor make it a movie worth seeing. Just take some time after the movie to read up on Turing’s actual immense contributions to the war and modern computing. (…) In reality, Turing had already outlined the concept of a computing machine in a 1936 paper and had built a cipher machine while at Princeton in the late 1930s, says Turing biographer Andrew Hodges. By mid-1940, Hodges says, Turing and his team at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, England, were routinely decoding German Air Force messages with code-breaking machines, or bombes. Within another year the cryptanalysts, which included Joan Clarke (played in the movie by Keira Knightley), had deciphered the all-important naval messages that strategized U-boat attacks. The biggest real-life drama is unmentioned in the film, Hodges says. In February 1942, the Germans adopted a more complex Enigma machine for naval communications, again putting the Allies in the dark. “It was a major crisis,” Hodges says. In desperation, Turing and American partners ran multiple bombes in parallel and used electronic components to speed up the code-breaking process. Finally, in early 1943, the Allies succeeded in cracking the code. The consequences of the 1942 Enigma upgrade went far beyond the war. The introduction to electronics, Hodges says, offered Turing a practical means for incorporating his 1936 conceptual ideas into a revolutionary machine — the digital computer. “The scientific story is much bigger than just the Enigma problem,” Hodges says. “It was a great movement in which ideas and new technology came together.” The Imitation Game ignores much of this history, and it also includes an egregious, historically inaccurate storyline in which Turing fails to report a Soviet spy to avoid being outed as gay. Andrew Grant
It’s the script which may prevent this hitting the Oscars jackpot. It’s too formulaic, too efficient at simply whisking you through and making sure you’ve clocked the diversity message.: without square pegs – like those played by Cumberbatch and Knightley – the world would be by far the poorer. « Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine, » runs the movie’s mouthful tagline. It leaves a strange taste. Turing’s treatment was terrible. Perhaps his achievement, in the end, should not be tainted by association. Catherine Shoard
The Imitation Game jumps around three time periods – Turing’s schooldays in 1928, his cryptographic work at Bletchley Park from 1939-45, and his arrest for gross indecency in Manchester in 1952. It isn’t accurate about any of them, but the least wrong bits are the 1928 ones. Young Turing (played strikingly well by Alex Lawther) is a lonely, awkward boy, whose only friend is a kid called Christopher Morcom. Turing nurtures a youthful passion for Morcom, and is about to declare his love when Morcom mysteriously fails to return after a holiday. Turing is summoned into the headmaster’s office, and is told coldly that the object of his affection has died of bovine tuberculosis. The film is right that this awful event had a formative impact on Turing’s life. In reality, though, Turing had been warned before his friend died that he should prepare for the worst. The housemaster’s speech (to all the boys, not just him) announcing Morcom’s death was kind and comforting. (…) In the 1939-45 strand of the story, Turing has grown up physically – though not, the film implies, emotionally. He is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is always good and puts in a strong performance despite the clunkiness of the screenplay. The film gives him a quasi-romantic foil in cryptanalyst Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), dubiously fictionalised as the key emotional figure of Turing’s adult life. The real Turing was engaged to her for a while, but he told her upfront that he had homosexual tendencies. According to him, she was “unfazed” by this. Turing builds an Enigma-code-cracking machine, which he calls Christopher. It’s understandable that films about complicated science usually simplify the facts. This one has sentimentalised them, too: fusing A Beautiful Mind with Frankenstein to portray Turing as the ultimate misunderstood boffin, and the Christopher machine as his beloved creation. In real life, the machine that cracked Enigma was called the Bombe, and the first operating version of it was named Victory. The digital computer Turing invented was known as the Universal Turing Machine. Colossus, the first programmable digital electronic computer, was built at Bletchley Park by engineer Tommy Flowers, incorporating Turing’s ideas. The Imitation Game puts John Cairncross, a Soviet spy and possible “Fifth Man” of the Cambridge spy ring, on Turing’s cryptography team. Cairncross was at Bletchley Park, but he was in a different unit from Turing. As Turing’s biographer Andrew Hodges, on whose book this film is based, has said, it is “ludicrous” to imagine that two people working separately at Bletchley would even have met. Security was far too tight to allow it. In his own autobiography, Cairncross wrote: “The rigid separation of the different units made contact with other staff members almost impossible, so I never got to know anyone apart from my direct operational colleagues.” In the film, Turing works out that Cairncross is a spy; but Cairncross threatens to expose his sexuality. “If you tell him my secret, I’ll tell him yours,” he says. The blackmail works. Turing covers up for the spy, for a while at least. This is wholly imaginary and deeply offensive – for concealing a spy would have been an extremely serious matter. Were the makers of The Imitation Game intending to accuse Alan Turing, one of Britain’s greatest war heroes, of cowardice and treason? Creative licence is one thing, but slandering a great man’s reputation – while buying into the nasty 1950s prejudice that gay men automatically constituted a security risk – is quite another. The final section of the film, set in 1951, may be the silliest, and not only because the film might have bothered to check that Turing’s arrest actually happened in 1952. Nor only because a key plot point rests on the fictional Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) using Tipp-Ex, which didn’t exist until 1959 (similar products were marketed from 1956, but that’s still not early enough for anyone to be using it in the film). Nock pursues Turing because he suspects him of being another Soviet spy, and accidentally uncovers his homosexuality in the process. This is not how it happened, and the whole film should really get over its irrelevant obsession with Soviet spies. In real life, Turing himself reported a petty theft to the police – but changed details of his story to cover up the relationship he was having with the possible culprit, Arnold Murray. The police did not suspect him of espionage. They pursued him with regard to the homophobic law of gross indecency. He submitted a five-page statement admitting to his affair with Murray – evidence which helped convict him. (…) Historically, The Imitation Game is as much of a garbled mess as a heap of unbroken code. For its appalling suggestion that Alan Turing might have covered up for a Soviet spy, it must be sent straight to the bottom of the class. Alex von Tunzelmann
To anyone trying to turn this story into a movie, the choice seems clear: either you embrace the richness of Turing as a character and trust the audience to follow you there, or you simply capitulate, by reducing him to a caricature of the tortured genius. The latter, I’m afraid, is the path chosen by director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore in The Imitation Game, their new, multiplex-friendly rendering of the story. In their version, Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) conforms to the familiar stereotype of the otherworldly nerd: he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t even understand an invitation to lunch. This places him at odds not only with the other codebreakers in his unit, but also, equally predictably, positions him as a natural rebel. Just to make sure we get the point, his recruitment to the British wartime codebreaking organization at Bletchley Park is rendered as a ridiculous confrontation with Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance, of Game of Thrones fame), the Royal Navy officer then in charge of British signals intelligence: “How the bloody hell are you supposed to decrypt German communications if you don’t, oh, I don’t know, speak German?” thunders Denniston. “I’m quite excellent at crossword puzzles,” responds Turing. On various occasions throughout the film, Denniston tries to fire Turing or have him arrested for espionage, which is resisted by those who have belatedly recognized his redemptive brilliance. “If you fire Alan, you’ll have to fire me, too,” says one of his (formerly hostile) coworkers. There’s no question that the real-life Turing was decidedly eccentric, and that he didn’t suffer fools gladly. As his biographers vividly relate, though, he could also be a wonderfully engaging character when he felt like it, notably popular with children and thoroughly charming to anyone for whom he developed a fondness. All of this stands sharply at odds with his characterization in the film, which depicts him as a dour Mr. Spock who is disliked by all of his coworkers—with the possible exception of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). The film spares no opportunity to drive home his robotic oddness. He uses the word “logical” a lot and can’t grasp even the most modest of jokes. This despite the fact that he had a sprightly sense of humor, something that comes through vividly in the accounts of his friends, many of whom shared their stories with both Hodges and Copeland. (For the record, the real Turing was also a bit of a slob, with a chronic disregard for personal hygiene. The glamorous Cumberbatch, by contrast, looks like he’s just stepped out of a Burberry catalog.) Now, one might easily dismiss such distortions as trivial. But actually they point to a much broader and deeply regrettable pattern. Tyldum and Moore are determined to suggest maximum dramatic tension between their tragic outsider and a blinkered society. (“You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here,” he wails when Denniston’s minions try to destroy his machine.) But this not only fatally miscasts Turing as a character—it also completely destroys any coherent telling of what he and his colleagues were trying to do. In reality, Turing was an entirely willing participant in a collective enterprise that featured a host of other outstanding intellects who happily coexisted to extraordinary effect. The actual Denniston, for example, was an experienced cryptanalyst and was among those who, in 1939, debriefed the three Polish experts who had already spent years figuring out how to attack the Enigma, the state-of-the-art cipher machine the German military used for virtually all of their communications. It was their work that provided the template for the machines Turing would later create to revolutionize the British signals intelligence effort. So Turing and his colleagues were encouraged in their work by a military leadership that actually had a pretty sound understanding of cryptological principles and operational security. As Copeland notes, the Nazis would have never allowed a bunch of frivolous eggheads to engage in such highly sensitive work, and they suffered the consequences. The film misses this entirely. In Tyldum and Moore’s version of events, Turing and his small group of fellow codebreakers spend the first two years of the war in fruitless isolation; only in 1941 does Turing’s crazy machine finally show any results. This is a highly stylized version of Turing’s epic struggle to crack the hardest German cipher, the one used by the German navy, whose ravaging submarines nearly brought Britain to its knees during the early years of the war. What this account neglects to mention is that Turing’s “bombes”—electromechanical calculating devices designed to reconstruct the settings of the Enigma—were already helping to decipher German army and air force codes from early on. The movie version, in short, represents a bizarre departure from the historical record. In fact, Bletchley Park—and not only Turing’s legendary Hut 8—was doing productive work from the very beginning of the war. Within a few years its motley assortment of codebreakers, linguists, stenographers, and communications experts were operating on a near-industrial scale. By the end of the war there were some 9,000 people working on the project, processing thousands of intercepts per day. A bit like one of those smartphones that bristles with unneeded features, the film does its best to ladle in extra doses of intrigue where none existed. Tyldum and Moore conjure up an entirely superfluous subplot involving John Cairncross, who was spying for the Soviet Union during his service at Bletchley Park. There’s no evidence that he ever crossed paths with Turing—Bletchley, contrary to the film, was much bigger than a single hut—but The Imitation Game includes him among Turing’s coworkers. When Turing discovers his true allegiance, Cairncross turns the tables on him, saying that he’ll reveal Turing’s homosexuality if his secret is divulged. Turing backs off, leaving the spy in place. Not many of the critics seem to have paid attention to this detail—except for historian Alex von Tunzelmann, who pointed out that the filmmakers have thus managed, almost as an afterthought, to turn their hero into a traitor. The movie tries to soften this by revealing that Stewart Menzies, the head of the Special Intelligence Service, has known about Cairncross’s treachery from the start—a jury-rigged solution to a gratuitous plot problem. (In fact, Cairncross, “the fifth man,” was never prosecuted.) These errors are not random; there is a method to the muddle. The filmmakers see their hero above all as a martyr of a homophobic Establishment, and they are determined to lay emphasis on his victimhood. The Imitation Game ends with the following title: “After a year of government-mandated hormonal therapy, Alan Turing committed suicide in 1954.” This is in itself something of a distortion. Turing was convicted on homosexuality charges in 1952, and chose the “therapy” involving female hormones—aimed, in the twisted thinking of the times, at suppressing his “unnatural” desires—as an alternative to jail time. It was barbarous treatment, and Turing complained that the pills gave him breasts. But the whole miserable episode ended in 1953—a full year before his death, something not made clear to the filmgoer. Copeland, who has taken a fresh look at the record and spoken with many members of Turing’s circle, disputes that the experience sent Turing into a downward spiral of depression. By the accounts of those who knew him, he bore the injustice with fortitude, then spent the next year enthusiastically pursuing projects. Copeland cites a number of close friends (and Turing’s mother) who saw no evidence that he was depressed in the days before his death, and notes that the coroner who concluded that Turing had died by biting a cyanide-laced apple never examined the fruit. Copeland offers sound evidence that the death might have actually been accidental, the result of a self-rigged laboratory where Turing was conducting experiments with cyanide. He left no suicide letter. Copeland also leaves open the possibility of foul play, which can’t be dismissed out of hand, when you consider that all of this happened during the period of McCarthyite hysteria, an era when homosexuality was regarded as an inherent “security risk.” Turing’s government work meant that he knew a lot of secrets, in the postwar period as well. It’s likely we’ll never know the whole story. One thing is certain: Turing could be remarkably naive about his own homosexuality. It was Turing himself who reported the fateful 1952 burglary, probably involving a working-class boyfriend, that brought his gay lifestyle to the attention to the police, thus setting off the legal proceedings against him. In The Imitation Game he holds this information back from the cops, who then cleverly wheedle it out. It’s another indication of the filmmakers’ determination to show Turing as an essentially passive figure. He’s never the master of his own destiny. But even if you believe that Turing was driven to his death, The Imitation Game’s treatment of his fate borders on the ridiculous. In one of the film’s most egregious scenes, his wartime friend Joan pays him a visit in 1952 or so, while he’s still taking his hormones. She finds him shuffling around the house in his bathrobe, barely capable of putting together a coherent sentence. He tells her that he’s terrified that the powers that be will take away “Christopher”—his latest computer, which he’s named after the dead friend of his childhood (just as he did with his machine at Bletchley Park). As near as I can tell, there is no basis for any of this in the historical record; it’s monstrous hogwash, a conceit entirely cooked up by Moore. The real Turing certainly paid periodic and dignified respects to the memory of his first love, Christopher Morcom, but I doubt very much that he ever confused his computers with people. In perhaps the most bitter irony of all, the filmmakers have managed to transform the real Turing, vivacious and forceful, into just the sort of mythological gay man, whiney and weak, that homophobes love to hate. This is indicative of the bad faith underlying the whole enterprise, which is desperate to put Turing in the role of a gay liberation totem but can’t bring itself to show him kissing another man—something he did frequently, and with gusto. And it most definitely doesn’t show him cruising New York’s gay bars, or popping off on a saucy vacation to one of the less reputable of the Greek islands. The Imitation Game is a film that prefers its gay men decorously disembodied. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that there hasn’t been more pushback against The Imitation Game by intelligence professionals, historians, and survivors of Turing’s circle. But I think I understand why. After so many years in which Turing failed to get his due, no one wants to be seen as spoiling the party. I strongly doubt, though, that many of those in the know are recommending this film to their friends. (For his part, Andrew Hodges is apparently opting to avoid talking about the movie during his current book tour—it’s easy to imagine why he might choose to do so, and I don’t fault him for it.) Christian Caryl
The Imitation Game takes major liberties with its source material, injecting conflict where none existed, inventing entirely fictional characters, rearranging the chronology of events, and misrepresenting the very nature of Turing’s work at Bletchley Park. At the same time, the film might paint Turing as being more unlovable than he actually was.(…) However, the central conceit of The Imitation Game—that Turing singlehandedly invented and physically built the machine that broke the Germans’ Enigma code—is simply untrue. A predecessor of the “Bombe”—the name given to the large, ticking machine that used rotors to test different letter combinations—was invented by Polish cryptanalysts before Turing even began working as a cryptologist for the British government. Turing’s great innovation was to design a new machine that broke the Enigma code faster by looking for likely letter combinations and ruling out combinations that were unlikely to yield results. Turing didn’t develop the new, improved machine by dint of his own singular genius—the mathematician Gordon Welchman, who is not even mentioned in the film, collaborated with Turing on the design. (…) The Imitation Game also somewhat alters Turing’s personality. The film strongly implies that Alan is somewhere on the autism spectrum: Cumberbatch’s character doesn’t understand jokes, takes common expressions literally, and seems indifferent to the suffering and annoyance he causes in others. This characterization is rooted in Hodge’s biography but is also largely exaggerated: Hodges never suggests that Turing was autistic, and though he refers to Turing’s tendency to take contracts and other bureaucratic red tape literally, he also describes Turing as a man with a keen sense of humor and close friends. To be sure, Hodges paints Turing as shy, eccentric, and impatient with irrationality, but Cumberbatch’s narcissistic, detached Alan has more in common with the actor’s title character in Sherlock than with the Turing of Hodges’ biography. One of Turing’s colleagues at Bletchley Park later recalled him as “a very easily approachable man” and said “we were very very fond of him”; none of this is reflected in the film.(…) In The Imitation Game, Commander Denniston is a rigid naval officer who resents Alan’s indifference to the military hierarchy and attempts to fire him when his decryption machine fails to deliver fast results. This characterization is mostly fictional, and Denniston’s family has taken issue with the film’s negative portrayal of him. The real-life Alastair Denniston, who spent most of his career as the director of the Government Code and Cypher School, was eager to expand his staff to help break the Germans’ Enigma code in the late 1930s. He recruited Turing, on the basis of his work at Cambridge and his writing on hypothetical computation machines, in 1938, and he hired Turing to work full time at Bletchley Park when Britain entered World War II in September 1939. There’s no record of a contentious interview between Turing and Denniston, and Denniston never tried to fire Turing from the Government Code and Cypher School—rather, given his innovations, Turing was a star of Bletchley Park. (…) Even if most of the details of the conflict between Commander Denniston and Alan are made up, they do stand in for a real-life power struggle between the military brass and the cryptologists. Turing’s colleagues there recalled that Turing “was always impatient of pompousness or officialdom of any kind,” which made him ill-suited for work in a military context, and Hodges writes that he “had little time for Denniston.” One of the most memorable clashes between Commander Denniston and Alan in the movie occurs when Alan goes over Denniston’s head to write a letter to Winston Churchill, who immediately puts Alan in charge of the Enigma-breaking operation and grants him the 100,000 pounds he needs to build his machine. This never happened, but Alan and three colleagues at Bletchley Park—including Hugh Alexander—did write a letter to Churchill requesting more staff and resources in 1941, and Churchill quickly granted them their requests. L.V. Anderson
In The Imitation Game, Hugh Alexander is a suave ladykiller who spends much of the film battling with Alan for control of the codebreaking operations; Hugh eventually recognizes Alan’s genius and falls in line behind him. Hugh Alexander—who went professionally by Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander or C.H.O’D. Alexander—was a real person, but the film’s Hugh character seems intended to serve as a contrast to Alan’s antisocial personality.(…) Alexander was a chess champion, and he was much better at managing people than Turing was. However, Alexander was not initially assigned to be Turing’s superior at Bletchley Park. Alexander began working there several months after Turing arrived, and the two didn’t begin working together for another year or so, when Alexander was transferred to Turing’s team to work on breaking Germany’s naval Enigma code. Hodges writes, “Hugh Alexander soon proved the all-round organiser and diplomat that Alan could never be.” Alexander eventually took over naval Enigma decryption after Turing began pursuing a speech decryption project, but by all accounts, their relationship was friendly and mutually respectful. In fact, when Turing was tried for indecency in 1952, Alexander served as a character witness for the defense.(…) Clarke was recruited to Bletchley Park by her former academic supervisor (and Turing’s partner in improving the Bombe) Gordon Welchman; she didn’t win the role by excelling in a crossword competition. (Bletchley recruiters did use crosswords to find talented codebreakers, but neither Turing nor Clarke was involved in this effort.) And Turing proposed to Clarke not to help her escape from overbearing parents, but because they liked each other. He “told her that he was glad he could talk to her ‘as to a man,’ ” writes Hodges, and they shared an interest in chess and botany. She even accepted Turing’s homosexuality; their engagement continued after he confessed his attraction to men. But after some months, Turing ended the engagement. “It was neither a happy nor an easy decision,” writes Hodges, but it wasn’t the ultimately violent confrontation depicted in The Imitation Game, either. “There had been several times when he had come out with ‘I do love you.’ Lack of love was not Alan’s problem.” Turing and Clarke kept in touch after their engagement ended, and Turing even tried to rekindle their relationship after a couple of years, but Clarke rebuffed him. Turing also wrote a letter to Clarke in 1952 to inform her of his impending trial for indecency, but the final scene of The Imitation Game, in which Joan visits Alan during his probation, is invented. Stewart Menzies, the chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service, and John Cairncross, a Soviet spy, are two historical figures who appear in The Imitation Game despite the fact that neither worked closely with Turing. Menzies was, as the film suggests, responsible for passing decrypted Nazi strategies to Winston Churchill, but it’s highly unlikely he interacted individually with Turing (or most of the thousands of other codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park over the years). Cairncross did pass intelligence from Bletchley Park to the Soviet Union, but he worked in a different unit from Turing’s, and there’s no evidence the two knew each other. Similarly, the filmmakers’ conceit that Menzies knew about and tolerated Cairncross’ duplicity isn’t supported by the historical record. In the film, Peter and Jack are more or less interchangeable background characters, distinguished primarily by the fact that Peter has a brother who is serving in the armed forces on a ship that the code-breaking team discover is targeted by the Germans. The ensuing dramatic scene, in which Alan reminds Peter and the rest of the team that they have to keep the Germans from learning that they’ve broken Enigma, is entirely invented; Hilton had no such brother, and in fact he began working at Bletchley Park long after Turing’s Bombe had been built. And while it was crucial for the British to use their intelligence wisely, Hodges writes that their success had less to do with their tactical shrewdness and more to do with the Germans’ a priori conviction that Enigma was unbreakable, despite ample evidence to the contrary. The Imitation Game’s framing device depicts one Detective Nock’s investigation into Alan’s life, following a mysterious burglary at Alan’s home. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this framing device isn’t quite true to life: There was no Detective Nock, and the detectives who did book Turing for indecency (who were named Mr. Wills and Mr. Rimmer) were under no illusions about his mysterious circumstances. Turing was burglarized by an acquaintance of 19-year-old Arnold Murray, who had slept with Turing a few times. The burglar had heard Murray talk about his trysts with Turing, and when the police interrogated the burglar, he revealed the illicit nature of Murray and Turing’s relationship. When the police interviewed Turing, he made no attempt to hide his homosexuality from them. Turing eventually pled guilty to indecency, and he was placed on probation and agreed to submit to estrogen treatment—intended to destroy his sex drive—for more than a year. The Imitation Game implies that the estrogen treatment sent Alan into an emotional tailspin, but Turing seems to have continued his work and social relationships normally during his year of probation. The film also implies that the estrogen treatment triggered Alan’s suicide, but in fact the treatment ended in April 1953, fourteen months before Turing killed himself. Although some modern scholars believe that his death from cyanide poisoning was an accident, Hodges believes that Turing made his suicide deliberately ambiguous so as to spare his mother the pain of believing that her son had killed himself on purpose. L.V. Anderson

Où l’on redécouvre que l’informatique, comme tant d’inventions avant elle, a d’abord servi à faire la guerre …

Oubli des précurseurs, partenaires ou concurrents (Marian Rejewsky, John von Neuman, Gordon Welchman, Wittgenstein), silence sur le plus important épisode de l’histoire (la complexification, en cours de route, d’Enigma par les Allemands), ajout de rencontres ou personnages fictifs et inutiles (John Cairncross, inspecteur de police), fausse accusation d’espionnage, erreurs importantes de dates (il avait suspendu son traitement depuis plus d’un an et travaillait sur toutes sortes de projets au moment d’une mort peut-être accidentelle), excessive individualisation d’un travail collectif qui a compté jusqu’à près de 10 000 personnes, exagération extrême de l’asociabilité du héros comme de l’opposition de son entourage …

Au sortir du passionnant film du norvégien Morten Tyldum (The Imitation game, du nom d’un jeu de société, que proposait Turing comme test d’intelligence artificielle, où un homme tente de se faire passer pour une femme) …

Sur la vie d’Alan Turing, le mathématicien britannique auquel on ne doit rien de moins avec le décodage, réputé inviolable car changé quoitidiennement, du fameux système de cryptage Enigma

 Au moment où en pleine de guerre de l’Atlantique les sous-marins allemands étaient passés bien près de couper l’Angleterre de son cordon ombilical américain …

Que la victoire sur l’Allemagne nazie mais aussi, excusez du peu, la (co-)invention de l’ordinateur …

Comment ne pas être frustré lorsque l’on découvre qu’Hollywood a encore réussi …

Emporté par son combat si tendance contre l’homophobie et ne reculant pour ce faire devant aucun anachronisme …

A passer à côté d’une histoire réelle encore plus ahurissante ?

A savoir celle d’un véritable héros …

Qui après avoir largement contribué à la victoire alliée (deux ans de guerre gagnées et peut-être 14 millions de victimes supplémentaires sauvées selon les estimations des historiens) …

Et pour préserver des recherches dont le secret militaire ne fut levé qu’en l’an 2000 …

Poussa l’abnégation jusqu’à endurer l’indignité et les désagréments d’une année de castration chimique …

Et surtout l’impossibilité, pour lui comme pour ses amis, de ne jamais révéler au monde …

Toute l’étendue de son inestimable contribution …

Tant à sa propre patrie qu’à l’humanité et à la Science avec un grand S ?

L’histoire par petites touches
Clément Ghys
Libération
27 janvier 2015

CRITIQUE
Codes . «Imitation Game», biopic d’Alan Turing, perd le fil de l’invention de l’ordinateur dans un numéro académique.

Après la sortie la semaine dernière d’Une merveilleuse histoire du temps, film consacré à Stephen Hawking, débarque en salles Imitation Game, biopic d’un autre scientifique, Alan Turing. Aux yeux des producteurs, les professeurs Tournesol seraient aimables du grand public, mais il conviendrait avant tout de montrer que, derrière chaque théorie – toute révolutionnaire soit-elle -, il y a un petit cœur qui bat.

Alan Turing, donc. L’Anglais est né en 1912 et mort en 1954, empoisonné au cyanure dans des circonstances jamais clairement établies. Dans sa courte vie, il aura inventé l’informatique, rien de moins. Il était asocial et homosexuel, deux qualités mal vues par la société d’alors. Le réalisateur norvégien Morten Tyldum s’est attaché à décrire la courte période au cours de laquelle le calcul de probabilités trouvera une matérialité, en cette chose que l’on appellera un ordinateur. En 1938, Turing, fraîchement sorti de Cambridge, est embauché par le gouvernement britannique pour décrypter Enigma, système de codes utilisé par les nazis. A Bletchley Park, zone où se croisent militaires et scientifiques et femmes réduites à être de simples «codeuses», le jeune homme passe ses heures à préparer son grand œuvre, une machine à analyser les messages allemands.

Asocial. Le réel auteur du film est sans doute l’équipe de décorateurs qui a fabriqué une (belle) réplique du premier ordinateur. Comme une machine, Imitation Game est calculé dans chacun de ses rouages. La narration se veut logique, s’enchaîne à la recherche d’un événement fondateur. Ici, il est même filmé : le jour où Turing, écolier, se vit offrir un livre de maths par le garçon dont il était amoureux. Le genre du biopic est habitué aux effets mécaniques, mais dans le cas de Turing, personnage si complexe, cela devient un écueil majeur. Il consiste à oublier le cheminement d’un intellectuel, à louper la force que prennent les ratés d’une pensée. La ligne droite que suit Imitation Game est le corollaire de son classicisme formel.

Autiste. Le film est auréolé de huit nominations aux oscars, et notamment son acteur principal, Benedict Cumberbatch. Le jeu de l’Anglais rappelle le rôle qui l’a rendu célèbre, Sherlock Holmes, dans la série de BBC One. La science est ici vue comme un résultat personnel, une activité autiste, plutôt que comme une longue déduction collective, un dialogue avec des penseurs contemporains et passés. Jamais le nom de John von Neumann, rival et autre père de l’informatique, n’est ici mentionné. Imitation Game passe à côté d’une histoire ahurissante et réelle, esquive les relations de pouvoir inhérentes à l’invention technologique, comme le fit brillamment David Fincher avec The Social Network. Le grand film d’archéologie de l’informatique reste à faire.

Imitation Game de Morten Tyldum avec Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley… 1 h 54.

« Imitation Game » : Alan Turing, génie tragique
Franck Nouchi

Le Monde

27.01.2015

L’avis du « Monde » : à voir
Le pardon royal fut accordé à Alan Turing (1912-1954) le 24 décembre 2013 par la reine Elizabeth. La souveraine britannique en finissait ainsi avec l’une des injustices les plus flagrantes du XXe siècle : la condamnation pour « indécence manifeste », en 1952, du mathématicien, héros méconnu de la seconde guerre mondiale. Son crime ? Il était homosexuel. Il avait réussi à casser le code Enigma utilisé par l’armée allemande pour ses communications secrètes et, ce faisant, contribué à la victoire des Alliés dans la bataille de l’Atlantique.

En 1952, la justice britannique avait donné à Turing le choix entre deux ans d’emprisonnement et un traitement aux hormones féminines revenant à une castration chimique. Le mathématicien choisit les injections, qui le rendirent impuissant. Le lundi de Pentecôte 1954, il croqua une pomme avant de se coucher. Le fruit ayant macéré dans du cyanure, le scientifique mettait fin à ses jours en s’inspirant de Blanche-Neige et les sept nains, le dessin animé de Walt Disney qu’il aimait tant.

Personnage étrange
Imitation Game, le film de Morten Tyldum, revient sur l’extraordinaire histoire de cet homme souvent présenté comme le co-inventeur de l’ordinateur. Benedict Cumberbatch, qui l’interprète, retrouve certaines facettes de ce personnage étrange, volontiers extravagant avec ses pantalons qui ne tiennent qu’avec des bouts de ficelle, circulant à vélo un masque à gaz sur le visage pour se protéger du rhume des foins… Cependant, pour connaître avec exactitude quelle fut la vie de Turing, mieux vaut lire l’ouvrage d’Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing, le génie qui a décrypté les codes secrets nazis et inventé l’ordinateur (Michel Lafon, 704 pages, 21,95 euros).

Turing connaît un premier moment de gloire en 1936, lorsqu’il postule l’existence théorique d’une machine programmable, capable d’effectuer très vite toutes sortes de calculs. Grâce à Turing, l’intelligence artificielle vient de naître. La guerre va lui permettre de mettre en pratique ses théories. A Bletchley Park – un manoir victorien qui abrite les services de décryptage du renseignement anglais –, il s’attaque, dès 1939, à la construction d’une machine capable de percer les mystères du codage Enigma.

Une petite communauté secrète
Avec son équipe, Turing parviendra, deux ans plus tard, à mettre au point les fameuses « bombes Turing », des curieuses machines capables, en quelques heures, de décrypter les communications entre l’état-major allemand et ses sous-marins dans l’Atlantique. Ces deux années, durant lesquelles il est devenu le véritable héros de cette petite communauté secrète, constituent la partie la plus intéressante d’Imitation Game.

La suite, le fait que Turing ne puisse faire état de ses découvertes faites pendant la guerre, mais aussi l’attention soupçonneuse que les services de renseignement portent à sa vie sentimentale, est un peu trop vite expédiée dans le film. Tyldum n’insiste pas suffisamment sur cette période de guerre froide et de maccarthysme triomphant durant laquelle les homosexuels furent souvent considérés comme les « maillons faibles » des systèmes d’espionnage et de défense occidentaux.

Musique oscarisable
En définitive, Imitation Game est le prototype du film anglais destiné à faire carrière aux Etats-Unis en raflant, si possible, quelques Oscars à Hollywood (il est nommé dans la catégorie « meilleur film ») : il est efficace, interprété par quelques acteurs fameux, à commencer par Benedict Cumberbatch, le Sherlock Holmes de la BBC, et doté d’une musique d’Alexandre Desplat elle aussi oscarisable.

Les scénaristes n’ont guère eu de scrupules à agrémenter l’histoire de Turing de quelques ornements qui n’ont pas grand-chose à voir avec la réalité. La mise en scène, classique, n’évite pas les clichés. Pour autant, et c’est tout le paradoxe de ces films spectaculaires, on ne s’ennuie pas devant cet Imitation Game.

Film britannique de Morten Tyldum avec Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong (1 h 55). Sur le Web : theimitationgamemovie.com et http://www.studiocanal.fr/cid33293/imitation-game.html

 Voir aussi:

A Bletchley Park, l’histoire secrète de l’invention de l’informatique
Le film « The Imitation Game » retrace les années qu’y a passées le mathématicien Alan Turing, spécialiste du décryptage des communications allemandes pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale.
Martin Untersinger (Bletchley, envoyé spécial)

Le Monde

30.01.2015

Lorsqu’on arrive au petit matin près du manoir de Bletchley Park (Angleterre), occupé un temps par le mathématicien Alan Turing, il ne reste aucune trace de Benedict Cumberbatch et du tournage du film Imitiation Game. En revanche, on croise beaucoup de personnes âgées venues visiter ce qui est désormais un musée à la gloire des « casseurs de code », qui ont réussi à décrypter les communications allemandes pendant la seconde guerre mondiale.

Au-delà de la sortie d’un film consacré au sujet, la fréquentation du lieu tient au nouveau statut d’Alan Turing, désormais considéré comme un inventeur génial de l’ordinateur moderne, après les excuses officielles du gouvernement, en 2009, et du pardon royal accordé en 2013 – Turing avait été condamné à un traitement hormonal en 1952 en raison de son homosexualité.

En passant de l’ombre à la lumière, Turing a emmené Bletchley Park dans son sillage. Au tout début de la seconde guerre mondiale, 56 brillants membres des meilleures universités du Royaume-Uni (mathématiciens, linguistes, etc.) avaient été dépêchés, à 80 kilomètres au nord de Londres dans ce manoir victorien au goût architectural douteux pour préparer l’affrontement avec l’Allemagne nazie.

Enigma
Leur but : décrypter la machine utilisée par le IIIe Reich pour ses communications radio, un engin cryptographique sophistiqué baptisé Enigma. Cet appareil, qui ressemble à une grosse machine à écrire dans un étui en bois, comporte trois rotors dotés chacun de 26 circuits électriques, un pour chaque lettre de l’alphabet. A chaque pression sur une touche, un courant électrique parcourt les trois rotors et vient allumer une petite ampoule sur le dessus de la machine qui illumine une lettre, la « transcription » de celle qui vient d’être tapée. Au fil de la saisie du texte, les rotors pivotent à un rythme préétabli, de sorte qu’une même lettre tapée au début et à la fin d’un message ne sera pas traduite de la même manière.

Celui qui reçoit, en morse, le message crypté n’a qu’à configurer la machine de la même manière que son correspondant et à taper le texte qu’il reçoit. En retour s’allument les lettres tapées à l’origine par l’émetteur du message. Le problème pour celui qui tente de décrypter le message est immense : les possibilités de positionnement initial des rotors sont extrêmement nombreuses.

Les Britanniques et les Français la pensent inviolable, jusqu’à ce que trois mathématiciens polonais, à la veille de l’invasion de leur pays par la Wehrmacht, leur dévoilent une technique permettant, en exploitant plusieurs failles de la machine et les erreurs des Allemands, de briser le chiffrement d’une bonne partie des messages.

Dans les mois qui précèdent le début de la guerre, les armées allemandes modifient certaines caractéristiques de leurs machines Enigma qui réduisent à néant les avancées des scientifiques polonais. Alors que la menace allemande se fait de plus en plus sentir, la tâche incombe donc aux « professeurs » de Bletchley Park de percer le secret d’Enigma.

Les plus brillants cerveaux du pays
Ils y parviendront, en grande partie et au prix d’un effort colossal et d’avancées sans précédent dans l’histoire de l’informatique. Les seuls cerveaux réunis à Bletchley Park ne suffisent évidemment pas. Alan Turing s’emploiera donc à démultiplier le cerveau humain avec une machine.

Poursuivant les travaux des Polonais, Alan Turing et les autres mathématiciens construisent donc un appareil destiné à passer en revue extrêmement rapidement les différents paramètres possibles d’Enigma. Son nom ? « La bombe ». Elle est pourtant plus proche du gros réfrigérateur que de l’explosif. Sur son flanc, des dizaines de bobines tournent sur elles-mêmes pour passer en revue les différents paramètres possibles d’Enigma.

Lorsque la machine et son bruit semblable à plusieurs milliers d’aiguilles qui s’entrechoquent s’arrêtent, une opératrice – 75 % des Britanniques présents à Bletchley Park sont des femmes – note la combinaison possible et vérifie si elle permet de déchiffrer les messages du jour. Plusieurs exemplaires de cette « bombe », prototypes des ordinateurs modernes, fonctionneront simultanément à Bletchley Park.

De la « bombe » au « Colosse »
Plus tard pendant la guerre sera même construit à Bletchley Park le premier véritable ordinateur électronique moderne, Colossus. Il s’attaquera avec succès à Lorenz, l’appareil utilisé par Hitler pour communiquer avec ses plus proches généraux, pourtant plus robuste qu’Enigma. Grâce à ces machines révolutionnaires pour l’époque, les Britanniques ont collecté de précieuses informations sur la stratégie et les mouvements des nazis. Les historiens estiment qu’ils ont largement contribué à accélérer la victoire des Alliés et sauvé des millions de vies.

Jusqu’à une date relativement récente, cet épisode, pourtant l’un principaux actes de naissance de l’informatique et une des clés de la seconde guerre mondiale, était totalement inconnu. Lorsqu’on en demande la raison au docteur Joel Greenberg, mathématicien et historien de Bletchley Park, la réponse fuse : « le secret ! »

L’effort entrepris par les mathématiciens de Bletchley était tellement crucial que ce qui s’y passait n’était connu que d’une petite poignée de très hauts responsables britanniques. Tous les renseignements issus des « codebreakers » étaient frappés du sceau « ultra », plus confidentiel encore que « top secret », un niveau de protection créé spécialement pour Bletchley. Tous ceux qui y travaillaient, y compris les responsables de la cantine, étaient soumis à l’Official Secret Act, un texte drastique qui leur interdisait toute allusion à leur activité, et ce, en théorie, jusqu’à leur mort. Le secret était tel que les 8 500 personnes qui y travaillaient au plus fort de la mobilisation ne savaient pas exactement ce que faisaient leurs collègues. Même les plus proches parents des mathématiciens impliqués ne savaient rien, pour certains jusqu’à leur lit de mort.

Et pour cause : il fallait à tout prix que les Allemands ignorent l’existence et les succès de Bletchley Park. Pour ce faire, les Britanniques se sont même efforcés de faire croire que les informations cruciales obtenues via leurs casseurs de codes leur parvenaient par des moyens plus traditionnels, quitte à inventer, dans des messages destinés à tromper les Allemands, de faux réseaux d’espions dans toute l’Europe. Plus tard, avec la guerre froide, c’est la crainte des espions soviétiques qui a contribué à garder le silence sur les activités du manoir – dont l’existence et les premiers succès étaient pourtant connus de Staline.

Ce secret n’a pas empêché les connaissances acquises à Bletchley Park de se diffuser après-guerre. Les Britanniques ont partagé avec les Américains le design des « bombes » et de « Colossus », ce qui leur a permis d’améliorer considérablement ce dernier. A la fin de la guerre, les mathématiciens sont retournés dans leurs universités et, pour certains, ont continué leurs travaux, sans pouvoir dire où et pourquoi ils avaient tant progressé.

Le secret s’effrite un peu en 1974 avec la parution de l’ouvrage de Frederick William Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, levant quelque peu le voile sur les activités de Bletchley Park. Mais jusqu’à 1982 et la parution de The Hut Six Story, de Gordon Welchman – un mathématicien qui a joué, aux côtés de Turing, un rôle majeur dans le décryptage des codes Allemands –, les informations concernant Bletchley Park sont généralistes et fragmentaires, explique M. Greenberg.

De l’ombre à la lumière
L’obscurité qui recouvre cette période de l’histoire britannique s’est donc dissipée peu à peu. Ces dernières années, c’est même une pleine lumière qui se déverse sur le manoir victorien. Bletchley Park attirait en 2006 moins de 50 000 personnes par an. En 2014, ils ont été cinq fois plus nombreux à venir visiter les installations réhabilitées telles qu’elles existaient au tournant de l’année 1941.

Le temps a passé depuis qu’en 1991, des historiens locaux ont réinvesti les lieux, quasiment délabrés et jusqu’ici vaguement utilisés par le gouvernement. Ce n’est même qu’au mois de mai, à l’issue d’un chantier de rénovation à 8 millions de livres, que le musée s’est doté d’un visage moderne. Créé en 1994, il vivait jusqu’alors de manière « précaire », concède-t-on aujourd’hui. Le retour en grâce, largement justifié, d’Alan Turing n’est pas étranger à son succès. « En décembre, le mois de la sortie de The Imitation Game au Royaume-Uni, le nombre de visiteurs a énormément augmenté », explique Iain Standen, le PDG de Bletchley Trust, l’organisation à but non lucratif qui gère le site.

De quoi se féliciter et se rassurer quant à la pérennité des installations, financées notamment par Google, British Aerospace, le fabricant d’antivirus McAfee ou la loterie britannique. Mais les dirigeants du musée ne veulent pas trop dépendre de l’aura, forcément périssable, d’Alan Turing. « Nous rappelons volontiers qu’Alan Turing n’était qu’une personne sur près de 10 000 et que Bletchley Park ne représente qu’une partie d’un individu aux multiples facettes, explique encore M. Standen. C’était un travail de groupe ». Il s’agit donc de « raconter les histoires des autres héros méconnus » qui ont accompagné celui qu’on présente un peu vite comme le seul inventeur de l’ordinateur moderne. Difficile de lui donner tort : qui connaît Dilly Knox, John Jeffreys, Peter Twinn ou encore Gordon Welchman, qui ont pourtant été aussi importants dans les progrès réalisés à Bletchley que Turing lui-même ?

Les pionniers de l’analyse des métadonnées
Si Alan Turing était responsable du décryptage des messages interceptés de la marine allemande, Bletchley Park ne se limitait pas à cette seule activité, abonde M. Greenberg. Ce dernier explique ainsi que les ingénieurs de Bletchley Park sont des pionniers de l’analyse de trafic. « Pour moi, c’est encore plus important que les avancées en matière de cryptographie », avance l’historien. Chaque utilisateur allemand d’Enigma disposait d’identifiants uniques. Les analystes de Bletchley se sont organisés de manière à pouvoir suivre précisément quel responsable parlait à qui, quand et où. Une excellente manière de surveiller l’armée allemande. « Cela ressemble beaucoup aux métadonnées d’aujourd’hui », explique M. Greenberg.

Autre innovation développée à Bletchley : le stockage de données. A l’aide de petites fiches perforées traitées par des machines automatisées, qui servaient à organiser les informations recueillies dans les messages allemands décryptés, les experts de Bletchley ont pu faire des rapprochements inédits. Ainsi, au cours de la guerre, ils ont décodé un message allemand indiquant qu’un gradé de la Wehrmacht allait se rendre dans une ville du sud de l’Italie. Isolée, cette information ne vaut rien. Mais grâce à leur ingénieux système, ils retrouvent un ancien message, datant de plusieurs mois, qui leur permet de découvrir que ce gradé était en réalité responsable de l’établissement de bases aériennes allemandes. Et que les Allemands s’apprêtent donc à en installer dans le sud de l’Italie.

Bletchley avait donc abouti à construire l’équivalent – très spécialisé – d’un véritable moteur de recherche…

Imitation game
Frédéric Strauss
Télérama
28/01/2015

Deux énigmes pour une seule intrigue… D’un côté, une machine, justement baptisée Enigma : permettant d’envoyer des messages cryptés, elle fut l’arme de l’Allemagne nazie pour diriger ses opérations militaires. De l’autre, un homme, le mathématicien britannique Alan Turing (1912-1954). Engagé avec d’autres « cerveaux » pour briser le code des transmissions allemandes, il fut un héros de l’ombre au service de son pays, avant d’être lui-même brisé : condamné en 1952 pour homosexualité, contraint d’accepter une castration chimique pour échapper à la prison, il se suicidera.

Sur fond de tensions dramatiques face à l’avancée de l’armée allemande, la lutte contre Enigma se joue derrière les portes d’un hangar où Alan Turing construit son énorme appareil à décrypter les codes, ancêtre de l’ordinateur. C’est paradoxalement la partie la moins excitante d’Imitation Game : pas assez expliquée, la logique qui permet de trouver la clé des messages demeure vague et abstraite. C’est que le jeu annoncé par le titre désigne autre chose : un test mis au point par Turing pour différencier intelligence artificielle et intelligence humaine, hélas trop vite évoqué.

En revanche, une hypothèse passionnante s’affirme par touches successives, à travers le portrait d’un génie asocial, capable de dialoguer avec les mécanismes les plus complexes mais pas du tout conçu pour les relations humaines : l’homme qui vainquit une machine en était une lui-même. A cette vision, qui pourrait être glaçante, l’interprétation de Benedict Cumberbatch apporte, sans la contredire, beaucoup de nuances. L’acteur parvient à exprimer à la fois l’efficience presque robotisée de Turing et sa solitude, sa souffrance. Sa composition, qui lui vaut une nomination logique à l’oscar, semble éclairer le destin de cet être à part, jamais bien dans son époque : homme du futur, ouvrant la voie aux nouvelles technologies, sacrifié au nom de lois héritées d’un passé archaïque. En 2009, le Premier ministre Gordon Brown présenta des excuses au nom du gouvernement britannique pour la manière dont Alan Turing fut traité. En 2013, la reine lui exprima un pardon posthume. En 2015, c’est un grand acteur qui, en l’incarnant, lui rend hommage.

‘The Imitation Game’ entertains at the expense of accuracy
Historical errors weaken mostly enjoyable film about Alan Turing breaking Enigma code
Andrew Grant
Science News
December 30, 2014

Ordinarily the life of a mathematician isn’t ideal fodder for a major Hollywood movie. But when that mathematician is Alan Turing — the British genius who inspired the modern computer, protected Allied soldiers from Nazi attacks with his code-breaking prowess and was a closeted gay man — you’ve got yourself a film with Oscar buzz. (Casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead doesn’t hurt either.)

Overall, the movie works: It’s fun, it’s gripping and it features a brilliant performance from Cumberbatch. But like so many other Hollywood biopics, it takes some major artistic license — which is disappointing, because Turing’s actual story is so compelling.

The film mainly takes place during the early years of World War II, when the German war machine is overwhelming Britain. Frustratingly, the British can intercept German communications but can’t understand them. The Germans had encoded their communiqués on Enigma machines, encryption devices that could substitute letters in a message using any of about 150 quintillion possible settings. The filmmakers effectively portray a race against the clock as Turing struggles to perfect his crazy idea for a machine that could break the Enigma code.

In reality, Turing had already outlined the concept of a computing machine in a 1936 paper (SN: 6/30/12, p. 26) and had built a cipher machine while at Princeton in the late 1930s, says Turing biographer Andrew Hodges. By mid-1940, Hodges says, Turing and his team at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, England, were routinely decoding German Air Force messages with code-breaking machines, or bombes. Within another year the cryptanalysts, which included Joan Clarke (played in the movie by Keira Knightley), had deciphered the all-important naval messages that strategized U-boat attacks.

The biggest real-life drama is unmentioned in the film, Hodges says. In February 1942, the Germans adopted a more complex Enigma machine for naval communications, again putting the Allies in the dark. “It was a major crisis,” Hodges says. In desperation, Turing and American partners ran multiple bombes in parallel and used electronic components to speed up the code-breaking process. Finally, in early 1943, the Allies succeeded in cracking the code.

The consequences of the 1942 Enigma upgrade went far beyond the war. The introduction to electronics, Hodges says, offered Turing a practical means for incorporating his 1936 conceptual ideas into a revolutionary machine — the digital computer. “The scientific story is much bigger than just the Enigma problem,” Hodges says. “It was a great movement in which ideas and new technology came together.”

The Imitation Game ignores much of this history, and it also includes an egregious, historically inaccurate storyline in which Turing fails to report a Soviet spy to avoid being outed as gay.

Nonetheless, the acting, suspense and a surprising amount of humor make it a movie worth seeing. Just take some time after the movie to read up on Turing’s actual immense contributions to the war and modern computing.

The Imitation Game review: Knightley and Cumberbatch impress, but historical spoilers lower the tension
The Alan Turing biopic has all the elements of drama going for it, but somehow the script fails to catch fire
Catherine Shoard
The Guardian
8 September 2014

The story of Alan Turing, the Enigma codebreaker who helped win the second world war and was chemically castrated by the state for his troubles, is a challenging one to make into a movie.

Yes, there’s some high-stakes stuff to work with: sex, spies, surveillance, the invention of computers and the fate of millions of people. But it’s a tale whose key moments have already fallen victim to spoilers. Will Turing’s massive deciphering machine work? It might. Will we beat the Germans? Possibly.

It’s also a story whose hero is both venerated and pitied, but about whom most people know little.

Unlike, say, Stephen Hawking, whose biopic premiered at the Toronto film festival on Sunday, this is not a man whose work we got for Christmas, whose face and voice are immediately familiar. This allows Benedict Cumberbatch more free rein, but the audience less certainty over how to gauge his merits.

What Cumberbatch delivers is an impressively rounded character study of someone variously kind, prickly, aggressive, awkward and supremely confident. But it’s almost too nuanced. Accuracy isn’t all, but fumbling in the dark isn’t always fun.

The film is bookended by scenes of Turing’s interrogation by a Manchester policeman (Rory Kinnear) who smells a rat after investigating a burglary in Turing’s flat. The place is a tip, yet nothing appears to have been taken, and the victim is sniffily dismissive: « What I could use now is not a bobby but a good cleaning lady. »

Kinnear digs a little deeper and unearths … nothing. Turing has no war record. So what really went on at the radio factory where he said he worked?

And so the story proper starts, with Turing’s interview at Bletchley Park, where he fares badly with the bluff sergeant Charles Dance, but is rescued by mysterious Mark Strong.

In an expository scene rich in Sorkin-ish dialogue and light on plausibility, we’re told about the mission and introduced to the rest of the team, including Matthew Goode (cad), Allen Leech (Scot) and Matthew Beard as a little chap who always seems so ill-informed and off-the-pace you wonder if he’s an intern.

New recruits are required if they’re to whip Hitler, so Turing courts candidates through a cryptic crossword: if they solve it they can attend an exam in London. When Keira Knightley shows up and is mistaken for a secretary, you don’t have to be a whiz to guess she’ll not only ace the test but do so miles faster than her male counterparts.

Graham Moore’s script tracks the code-cracking, alongside Turing and Knightley’s burgeoning closeness and the progress of the war (through familiar newsreel). At points, we flash forward to the police investigation (« He’s a poof, not a spy! » exclaims one copper, having a eureka moment) and back to Turing’s schooldays friendship with a boy called Christopher.

Much about The Imitation Game – cast, subject matter, parquet flooring – appears to mimic the 2011 film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, with which it also shares Working Title roots and a director making their English language debut (in that case, Tomas Alfredson, in this, Morten Tyldum). But it’s not as chilly or convincing, doesn’t burn with the same intellectual intensity as that film, nor of, say, The Social Network, whose template it apes.

What works is – as with Hawking story The Theory of Everything – the relationship between the central couple. Knightley is miles better than she’s been in a while; sitting on a shelf rather than centre stage seems to suit her. She has fun with her plummy vowels, even when saying lines like « I’m a woman in a man’s job ». Cumberbatch’s Turing is most interesting when at his softest; endlessly bashing up against less brilliant colleagues or military bureaucracy is bruising all round.

But it’s the script which may prevent this hitting the Oscars jackpot. It’s too formulaic, too efficient at simply whisking you through and making sure you’ve clocked the diversity message.: without square pegs – like those played by Cumberbatch and Knightley – the world would be by far the poorer.

« Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine, » runs the movie’s mouthful tagline. It leaves a strange taste. Turing’s treatment was terrible. Perhaps his achievement, in the end, should not be tainted by association.

The Imitation Game: inventing a new slander to insult Alan Turing
The wartime codebreaker and computing genius was pursued for homosexuality, but nobody – until film-makers came along – accused him of being a traitor
Alex von Tunzelmann
The Guardian
Thursday 20 November 2014

The Imitation Game (2014)
Director: Morten Tyldum
Entertainment grade: C+
History grade: Fail

Childhood

The Imitation Game jumps around three time periods – Turing’s schooldays in 1928, his cryptographic work at Bletchley Park from 1939-45, and his arrest for gross indecency in Manchester in 1952. It isn’t accurate about any of them, but the least wrong bits are the 1928 ones. Young Turing (played strikingly well by Alex Lawther) is a lonely, awkward boy, whose only friend is a kid called Christopher Morcom. Turing nurtures a youthful passion for Morcom, and is about to declare his love when Morcom mysteriously fails to return after a holiday. Turing is summoned into the headmaster’s office, and is told coldly that the object of his affection has died of bovine tuberculosis. The film is right that this awful event had a formative impact on Turing’s life. In reality, though, Turing had been warned before his friend died that he should prepare for the worst. The housemaster’s speech (to all the boys, not just him) announcing Morcom’s death was kind and comforting.

Romance

In the 1939-45 strand of the story, Turing has grown up physically – though not, the film implies, emotionally. He is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is always good and puts in a strong performance despite the clunkiness of the screenplay. The film gives him a quasi-romantic foil in cryptanalyst Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), dubiously fictionalised as the key emotional figure of Turing’s adult life. The real Turing was engaged to her for a while, but he told her upfront that he had homosexual tendencies. According to him, she was “unfazed” by this.

Technology

Benedict Cumberbatch The Imitation Game Long load times … Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game Photograph: Allstar/Black Bear Pictures/Sportsphoto Ltd

Turing builds an Enigma-code-cracking machine, which he calls Christopher. It’s understandable that films about complicated science usually simplify the facts. This one has sentimentalised them, too: fusing A Beautiful Mind with Frankenstein to portray Turing as the ultimate misunderstood boffin, and the Christopher machine as his beloved creation. In real life, the machine that cracked Enigma was called the Bombe, and the first operating version of it was named Victory. The digital computer Turing invented was known as the Universal Turing Machine. Colossus, the first programmable digital electronic computer, was built at Bletchley Park by engineer Tommy Flowers, incorporating Turing’s ideas.

Espionage

The Imitation Game puts John Cairncross, a Soviet spy and possible “Fifth Man” of the Cambridge spy ring, on Turing’s cryptography team. Cairncross was at Bletchley Park, but he was in a different unit from Turing. As Turing’s biographer Andrew Hodges, on whose book this film is based, has said, it is “ludicrous” to imagine that two people working separately at Bletchley would even have met. Security was far too tight to allow it. In his own autobiography, Cairncross wrote: “The rigid separation of the different units made contact with other staff members almost impossible, so I never got to know anyone apart from my direct operational colleagues.” In the film, Turing works out that Cairncross is a spy; but Cairncross threatens to expose his sexuality. “If you tell him my secret, I’ll tell him yours,” he says.

The blackmail works. Turing covers up for the spy, for a while at least. This is wholly imaginary and deeply offensive – for concealing a spy would have been an extremely serious matter. Were the makers of The Imitation Game intending to accuse Alan Turing, one of Britain’s greatest war heroes, of cowardice and treason? Creative licence is one thing, but slandering a great man’s reputation – while buying into the nasty 1950s prejudice that gay men automatically constituted a security risk – is quite another.

Sexuality

The final section of the film, set in 1951, may be the silliest, and not only because the film might have bothered to check that Turing’s arrest actually happened in 1952. Nor only because a key plot point rests on the fictional Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) using Tipp-Ex, which didn’t exist until 1959 (similar products were marketed from 1956, but that’s still not early enough for anyone to be using it in the film). Nock pursues Turing because he suspects him of being another Soviet spy, and accidentally uncovers his homosexuality in the process. This is not how it happened, and the whole film should really get over its irrelevant obsession with Soviet spies. In real life, Turing himself reported a petty theft to the police – but changed details of his story to cover up the relationship he was having with the possible culprit, Arnold Murray. The police did not suspect him of espionage. They pursued him with regard to the homophobic law of gross indecency. He submitted a five-page statement admitting to his affair with Murray – evidence which helped convict him.

Justice

The film is right that the “chemical castration” Turing underwent after his conviction was unjust and disgusting. Turing was pardoned in 2013, but the pardon was controversial. Many campaigners believe, as Turing himself did, that consensual sex between men should never have constituted an offence at all. Tens of thousands of less famous men were similarly prosecuted between 1885 and 1967, and their convictions stand.

Verdict

Historically, The Imitation Game is as much of a garbled mess as a heap of unbroken code. For its appalling suggestion that Alan Turing might have covered up for a Soviet spy, it must be sent straight to the bottom of the class.

A Poor Imitation of Alan Turing
Christian Caryl
The New York review of books
December 19, 2014

I’ve been fascinated by the computer science pioneer Alan Turing ever since I came across the remarkable account of his life written by the British mathematician and gay rights activist Andrew Hodges in 1983. The moment of publication was no accident, for two reasons. First, by the early 1980s the story of Turing’s wartime efforts to break Nazi codes had receded just far enough in time to overcome the draconian security restrictions that had prevented it from being told. Second, gay rights campaigners in Europe and the US were enjoying some of their first big successes in breaking through long-standing discrimination. Suddenly it became possible not only to celebrate Turing’s enormous contribution to Allied victory in the war but also to tell the story of his 1952 conviction and subsequent punishment on charges of homosexuality (still a criminal offense in Great Britain at the time), followed by his death, at the age of forty-one, two years later. (For Hodges, this death was clearly a suicide; intriguingly, Jack Copeland, his more recent biographer, isn’t so sure. More on that later.)

To anyone trying to turn this story into a movie, the choice seems clear: either you embrace the richness of Turing as a character and trust the audience to follow you there, or you simply capitulate, by reducing him to a caricature of the tortured genius. The latter, I’m afraid, is the path chosen by director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore in The Imitation Game, their new, multiplex-friendly rendering of the story. In their version, Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) conforms to the familiar stereotype of the otherworldly nerd: he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t even understand an invitation to lunch. This places him at odds not only with the other codebreakers in his unit, but also, equally predictably, positions him as a natural rebel.

Just to make sure we get the point, his recruitment to the British wartime codebreaking organization at Bletchley Park is rendered as a ridiculous confrontation with Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance, of Game of Thrones fame), the Royal Navy officer then in charge of British signals intelligence: “How the bloody hell are you supposed to decrypt German communications if you don’t, oh, I don’t know, speak German?” thunders Denniston. “I’m quite excellent at crossword puzzles,” responds Turing.

On various occasions throughout the film, Denniston tries to fire Turing or have him arrested for espionage, which is resisted by those who have belatedly recognized his redemptive brilliance. “If you fire Alan, you’ll have to fire me, too,” says one of his (formerly hostile) coworkers. There’s no question that the real-life Turing was decidedly eccentric, and that he didn’t suffer fools gladly. As his biographers vividly relate, though, he could also be a wonderfully engaging character when he felt like it, notably popular with children and thoroughly charming to anyone for whom he developed a fondness.

All of this stands sharply at odds with his characterization in the film, which depicts him as a dour Mr. Spock who is disliked by all of his coworkers—with the possible exception of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). The film spares no opportunity to drive home his robotic oddness. He uses the word “logical” a lot and can’t grasp even the most modest of jokes. This despite the fact that he had a sprightly sense of humor, something that comes through vividly in the accounts of his friends, many of whom shared their stories with both Hodges and Copeland. (For the record, the real Turing was also a bit of a slob, with a chronic disregard for personal hygiene. The glamorous Cumberbatch, by contrast, looks like he’s just stepped out of a Burberry catalog.)

Now, one might easily dismiss such distortions as trivial. But actually they point to a much broader and deeply regrettable pattern. Tyldum and Moore are determined to suggest maximum dramatic tension between their tragic outsider and a blinkered society. (“You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here,” he wails when Denniston’s minions try to destroy his machine.) But this not only fatally miscasts Turing as a character—it also completely destroys any coherent telling of what he and his colleagues were trying to do.

In reality, Turing was an entirely willing participant in a collective enterprise that featured a host of other outstanding intellects who happily coexisted to extraordinary effect. The actual Denniston, for example, was an experienced cryptanalyst and was among those who, in 1939, debriefed the three Polish experts who had already spent years figuring out how to attack the Enigma, the state-of-the-art cipher machine the German military used for virtually all of their communications. It was their work that provided the template for the machines Turing would later create to revolutionize the British signals intelligence effort. So Turing and his colleagues were encouraged in their work by a military leadership that actually had a pretty sound understanding of cryptological principles and operational security. As Copeland notes, the Nazis would have never allowed a bunch of frivolous eggheads to engage in such highly sensitive work, and they suffered the consequences. The film misses this entirely.

In Tyldum and Moore’s version of events, Turing and his small group of fellow codebreakers spend the first two years of the war in fruitless isolation; only in 1941 does Turing’s crazy machine finally show any results. This is a highly stylized version of Turing’s epic struggle to crack the hardest German cipher, the one used by the German navy, whose ravaging submarines nearly brought Britain to its knees during the early years of the war. What this account neglects to mention is that Turing’s “bombes”—electromechanical calculating devices designed to reconstruct the settings of the Enigma—were already helping to decipher German army and air force codes from early on.

The movie version, in short, represents a bizarre departure from the historical record. In fact, Bletchley Park—and not only Turing’s legendary Hut 8—was doing productive work from the very beginning of the war. Within a few years its motley assortment of codebreakers, linguists, stenographers, and communications experts were operating on a near-industrial scale. By the end of the war there were some 9,000 people working on the project, processing thousands of intercepts per day.

A bit like one of those smartphones that bristles with unneeded features, the film does its best to ladle in extra doses of intrigue where none existed. Tyldum and Moore conjure up an entirely superfluous subplot involving John Cairncross, who was spying for the Soviet Union during his service at Bletchley Park. There’s no evidence that he ever crossed paths with Turing—Bletchley, contrary to the film, was much bigger than a single hut—but The Imitation Game includes him among Turing’s coworkers. When Turing discovers his true allegiance, Cairncross turns the tables on him, saying that he’ll reveal Turing’s homosexuality if his secret is divulged. Turing backs off, leaving the spy in place.

Not many of the critics seem to have paid attention to this detail—except for historian Alex von Tunzelmann, who pointed out that the filmmakers have thus managed, almost as an afterthought, to turn their hero into a traitor. The movie tries to soften this by revealing that Stewart Menzies, the head of the Special Intelligence Service, has known about Cairncross’s treachery from the start—a jury-rigged solution to a gratuitous plot problem. (In fact, Cairncross, “the fifth man,” was never prosecuted.)
Jack English/Black Bear Pictures
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, 2014

These errors are not random; there is a method to the muddle. The filmmakers see their hero above all as a martyr of a homophobic Establishment, and they are determined to lay emphasis on his victimhood. The Imitation Game ends with the following title: “After a year of government-mandated hormonal therapy, Alan Turing committed suicide in 1954.” This is in itself something of a distortion. Turing was convicted on homosexuality charges in 1952, and chose the “therapy” involving female hormones—aimed, in the twisted thinking of the times, at suppressing his “unnatural” desires—as an alternative to jail time. It was barbarous treatment, and Turing complained that the pills gave him breasts. But the whole miserable episode ended in 1953—a full year before his death, something not made clear to the filmgoer.

Copeland, who has taken a fresh look at the record and spoken with many members of Turing’s circle, disputes that the experience sent Turing into a downward spiral of depression. By the accounts of those who knew him, he bore the injustice with fortitude, then spent the next year enthusiastically pursuing projects. Copeland cites a number of close friends (and Turing’s mother) who saw no evidence that he was depressed in the days before his death, and notes that the coroner who concluded that Turing had died by biting a cyanide-laced apple never examined the fruit. Copeland offers sound evidence that the death might have actually been accidental, the result of a self-rigged laboratory where Turing was conducting experiments with cyanide. He left no suicide letter.

Copeland also leaves open the possibility of foul play, which can’t be dismissed out of hand, when you consider that all of this happened during the period of McCarthyite hysteria, an era when homosexuality was regarded as an inherent “security risk.” Turing’s government work meant that he knew a lot of secrets, in the postwar period as well. It’s likely we’ll never know the whole story.

One thing is certain: Turing could be remarkably naive about his own homosexuality. It was Turing himself who reported the fateful 1952 burglary, probably involving a working-class boyfriend, that brought his gay lifestyle to the attention to the police, thus setting off the legal proceedings against him. In The Imitation Game he holds this information back from the cops, who then cleverly wheedle it out. It’s another indication of the filmmakers’ determination to show Turing as an essentially passive figure. He’s never the master of his own destiny.

But even if you believe that Turing was driven to his death, The Imitation Game’s treatment of his fate borders on the ridiculous. In one of the film’s most egregious scenes, his wartime friend Joan pays him a visit in 1952 or so, while he’s still taking his hormones. She finds him shuffling around the house in his bathrobe, barely capable of putting together a coherent sentence. He tells her that he’s terrified that the powers that be will take away “Christopher”—his latest computer, which he’s named after the dead friend of his childhood (just as he did with his machine at Bletchley Park).

As near as I can tell, there is no basis for any of this in the historical record; it’s monstrous hogwash, a conceit entirely cooked up by Moore. The real Turing certainly paid periodic and dignified respects to the memory of his first love, Christopher Morcom, but I doubt very much that he ever confused his computers with people. In perhaps the most bitter irony of all, the filmmakers have managed to transform the real Turing, vivacious and forceful, into just the sort of mythological gay man, whiney and weak, that homophobes love to hate.

This is indicative of the bad faith underlying the whole enterprise, which is desperate to put Turing in the role of a gay liberation totem but can’t bring itself to show him kissing another man—something he did frequently, and with gusto. And it most definitely doesn’t show him cruising New York’s gay bars, or popping off on a saucy vacation to one of the less reputable of the Greek islands. The Imitation Game is a film that prefers its gay men decorously disembodied.

To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that there hasn’t been more pushback against The Imitation Game by intelligence professionals, historians, and survivors of Turing’s circle. But I think I understand why. After so many years in which Turing failed to get his due, no one wants to be seen as spoiling the party. I strongly doubt, though, that many of those in the know are recommending this film to their friends. (For his part, Andrew Hodges is apparently opting to avoid talking about the movie during his current book tour—it’s easy to imagine why he might choose to do so, and I don’t fault him for it.)

If you want to see a richly imagined British movie about a fascinating historical character, go see Mike Leigh’s new film about the painter J.M.W. Turner. But if you want to see the real Alan Turing, you’re better off reading the books.

How Accurate Is The Imitation Game?
L.V. Anderson
Slate
Dec. 3 2014

The Oscar-buzzed new movie The Imitation Game is an old-fashioned biopic, crafting a tidy, entertaining narrative from disparate strands of its subject’s life—in this case, British mathematician, codebreaker, and computer pioneer Alan Turing. Slate movie critic Dana Stevens has taken issue with the film’s emotional straightforwardness, writing, “The Imitation Game doesn’t do right by the complex and often unlovable man it purports to be about.” Meanwhile, on Outward, my colleagues J. Bryan Lowder and June Thomas praise the film’s message in spite of its historical inaccuracies.

Just how inaccurate are those inaccuracies? I read the masterful biography that the screenplay is based on, Andrew Hodges’ Alan Turing: The Enigma, to find out. I discovered that The Imitation Game takes major liberties with its source material, injecting conflict where none existed, inventing entirely fictional characters, rearranging the chronology of events, and misrepresenting the very nature of Turing’s work at Bletchley Park. At the same time, the film might paint Turing as being more unlovable than he actually was. For details on the film’s flights of fancy, read on. (There will, naturally, be spoilers.)

The Alan Turing played by Benedict Cumberbatch is brusque, humorless, and brilliant. In an early scene where he is interviewed by Commander Denniston (Charles Dance), we learn that he made exceptional achievements in mathematics at a young age. This is a reflection of reality: Turing was elected as a fellow at Cambridge at the age of 22, and he published his most influential paper, “On Computable Numbers,” at 24.

Other aspects of Cumberbatch’s characterization are true to life, as well: Turing was fairly indifferent to politics, both in the interpersonal sense and in the civic sense. He ran marathons. He was also gay, and even more openly than the film implies. Hodges’ biography is filled with instances in which Turing boldly made advances toward other men—mostly without success. Turing also told his friends and colleagues about his homosexuality.

However, the central conceit of The Imitation Game—that Turing singlehandedly invented and physically built the machine that broke the Germans’ Enigma code—is simply untrue. A predecessor of the “Bombe”—the name given to the large, ticking machine that used rotors to test different letter combinations—was invented by Polish cryptanalysts before Turing even began working as a cryptologist for the British government.* Turing’s great innovation was to design a new machine that broke the Enigma code faster by looking for likely letter combinations and ruling out combinations that were unlikely to yield results. Turing didn’t develop the new, improved machine by dint of his own singular genius—the mathematician Gordon Welchman, who is not even mentioned in the film, collaborated with Turing on the design.

Leaving aside Turing’s codebreaking achievements, The Imitation Game also somewhat alters Turing’s personality. The film strongly implies that Alan is somewhere on the autism spectrum: Cumberbatch’s character doesn’t understand jokes, takes common expressions literally, and seems indifferent to the suffering and annoyance he causes in others. This characterization is rooted in Hodge’s biography but is also largely exaggerated: Hodges never suggests that Turing was autistic, and though he refers to Turing’s tendency to take contracts and other bureaucratic red tape literally, he also describes Turing as a man with a keen sense of humor and close friends. To be sure, Hodges paints Turing as shy, eccentric, and impatient with irrationality, but Cumberbatch’s narcissistic, detached Alan has more in common with the actor’s title character in Sherlock than with the Turing of Hodges’ biography. One of Turing’s colleagues at Bletchley Park later recalled him as “a very easily approachable man” and said “we were very very fond of him”; none of this is reflected in the film.

In addition to the more significant creative liberties that the movie takes, there are small fictions surrounding his character in the movie. Although, in the movie, Alan tells Denniston that he doesn’t know German, Turing did in fact study German and travel to Germany before and after the war. Turing did not, as far as we know, have a compulsion to separate his peas and carrots. (In fact, given his generally unkempt appearance, it’s highly unlikely he gave attention to such details.) And whether or not Turing liked sandwiches—a key plot point in The Imitation Game—goes unmentioned in Hodges’ biography.

In flashbacks to 1928 in The Imitation Game, we learn that Alan’s first love was a classmate at boarding school named Christopher. Christopher rescues Alan after he’s nailed under the floorboards by bullies, teaches Alan to communicate via codes and ciphers, flirts with Alan, and then suddenly dies of bovine tuberculosis.

Although many of the details are invented for the movie, the gist of this storyline is true: Turing really did befriend and develop romantic feelings for a boy named Christopher Morcom at Sherborne School, the boys’ school in Dorset that he attended as a teenager. (He also did get trapped under the floorboards by other boys, according to Alan Turing: The Enigma, but this occurred before he met Morcom.) Morcom died from bovine tuberculosis in 1930, shortly after he’d been accepted to Cambridge and three years after Turing had first met him.

In the movie, it’s implied that Christopher shares Alan’s attraction, but it seems likely that Turing’s affection for Morcom was unrequited—Turing later wrote, “Chris knew I think so well how I liked him, but hated me shewing it.” Several other details of their relationship are different in the movie than in Alan Turing: The Enigma. Although in the movie Christopher is taller than young Alan (Alex Lawther), in reality Turing had a growth spurt at 15, while Morcom was “surprisingly small for his form.” (Morcom was one year ahead of Turing in school.) Turing and Morcom bonded over math and chemistry, not ciphers; Turing began exploring ciphers with another friend at Sherborne after Morcom had died. The biggest departure from reality in the film is the scene where the headmaster informs Alan of Christopher’s death, and Alan denies having known Christopher very well. In real life, Turing was openly devastated by Morcom’s death, and he subsequently developed a relationship with Morcom’s family, going on vacations with them and maintaining a correspondence with Morcom’s mother for years after he’d left Sherborne.

Additionally, Turing did not call any of the early computers he worked on “Christopher”—that is a dramatic flourish invented by screenwriter Graham Moore.

In The Imitation Game, Commander Denniston is a rigid naval officer who resents Alan’s indifference to the military hierarchy and attempts to fire him when his decryption machine fails to deliver fast results. This characterization is mostly fictional, and Denniston’s family has taken issue with the film’s negative portrayal of him. The real-life Alastair Denniston, who spent most of his career as the director of the Government Code and Cypher School, was eager to expand his staff to help break the Germans’ Enigma code in the late 1930s. He recruited Turing, on the basis of his work at Cambridge and his writing on hypothetical computation machines, in 1938, and he hired Turing to work full time at Bletchley Park when Britain entered World War II in September 1939. There’s no record of a contentious interview between Turing and Denniston, and Denniston never tried to fire Turing from the Government Code and Cypher School—rather, given his innovations, Turing was a star of Bletchley Park.

Even if most of the details of the conflict between Commander Denniston and Alan are made up, they do stand in for a real-life power struggle between the military brass and the cryptologists. Turing’s colleagues there recalled that Turing “was always impatient of pompousness or officialdom of any kind,” which made him ill-suited for work in a military context, and Hodges writes that he “had little time for Denniston.” One of the most memorable clashes between Commander Denniston and Alan in the movie occurs when Alan goes over Denniston’s head to write a letter to Winston Churchill, who immediately puts Alan in charge of the Enigma-breaking operation and grants him the 100,000 pounds he needs to build his machine. This never happened, but Alan and three colleagues at Bletchley Park—including Hugh Alexander—did write a letter to Churchill requesting more staff and resources in 1941, and Churchill quickly granted them their requests.

In The Imitation Game, Hugh Alexander is a suave ladykiller who spends much of the film battling with Alan for control of the codebreaking operations; Hugh eventually recognizes Alan’s genius and falls in line behind him. Hugh Alexander—who went professionally by Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander or C.H.O’D. Alexander—was a real person, but the film’s Hugh character seems intended to serve as a contrast to Alan’s antisocial personality.

The film is faithful to the basic facts: Alexander was a chess champion, and he was much better at managing people than Turing was. However, Alexander was not initially assigned to be Turing’s superior at Bletchley Park. Alexander began working there several months after Turing arrived, and the two didn’t begin working together for another year or so, when Alexander was transferred to Turing’s team to work on breaking Germany’s naval Enigma code. Hodges writes, “Hugh Alexander soon proved the all-round organiser and diplomat that Alan could never be.” Alexander eventually took over naval Enigma decryption after Turing began pursuing a speech decryption project, but by all accounts, their relationship was friendly and mutually respectful. In fact, when Turing was tried for indecency in 1952, Alexander served as a character witness for the defense.

Keira Knightley’s character in The Imitation Game is a brilliant, spunky young mathematician whom Alan agrees to marry to get her conservative parents off her back. As with other storylines, the skeleton of this narrative is true, even if the details are not. Clarke was recruited to Bletchley Park by her former academic supervisor (and Turing’s partner in improving the Bombe) Gordon Welchman; she didn’t win the role by excelling in a crossword competition. (Bletchley recruiters did use crosswords to find talented codebreakers, but neither Turing nor Clarke was involved in this effort.) And Turing proposed to Clarke not to help her escape from overbearing parents, but because they liked each other. He “told her that he was glad he could talk to her ‘as to a man,’ ” writes Hodges, and they shared an interest in chess and botany. She even accepted Turing’s homosexuality; their engagement continued after he confessed his attraction to men. But after some months, Turing ended the engagement. “It was neither a happy nor an easy decision,” writes Hodges, but it wasn’t the ultimately violent confrontation depicted in The Imitation Game, either. “There had been several times when he had come out with ‘I do love you.’ Lack of love was not Alan’s problem.”

Turing and Clarke kept in touch after their engagement ended, and Turing even tried to rekindle their relationship after a couple of years, but Clarke rebuffed him. Turing also wrote a letter to Clarke in 1952 to inform her of his impending trial for indecency, but the final scene of The Imitation Game, in which Joan visits Alan during his probation, is invented.

Stewart Menzies, the chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service, and John Cairncross, a Soviet spy, are two historical figures who appear in The Imitation Game despite the fact that neither worked closely with Turing. Menzies was, as the film suggests, responsible for passing decrypted Nazi strategies to Winston Churchill, but it’s highly unlikely he interacted individually with Turing (or most of the thousands of other codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park over the years). Cairncross did pass intelligence from Bletchley Park to the Soviet Union, but he worked in a different unit from Turing’s, and there’s no evidence the two knew each other. Similarly, the filmmakers’ conceit that Menzies knew about and tolerated Cairncross’ duplicity isn’t supported by the historical record.

In the film, Peter and Jack are more or less interchangeable background characters, distinguished primarily by the fact that Peter has a brother who is serving in the armed forces on a ship that the code-breaking team discover is targeted by the Germans. The ensuing dramatic scene, in which Alan reminds Peter and the rest of the team that they have to keep the Germans from learning that they’ve broken Enigma, is entirely invented; Hilton had no such brother, and in fact he began working at Bletchley Park long after Turing’s Bombe had been built. And while it was crucial for the British to use their intelligence wisely, Hodges writes that their success had less to do with their tactical shrewdness and more to do with the Germans’ a priori conviction that Enigma was unbreakable, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

The Imitation Game’s framing device depicts one Detective Nock’s investigation into Alan’s life, following a mysterious burglary at Alan’s home. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this framing device isn’t quite true to life: There was no Detective Nock, and the detectives who did book Turing for indecency (who were named Mr. Wills and Mr. Rimmer) were under no illusions about his mysterious circumstances. Turing was burglarized by an acquaintance of 19-year-old Arnold Murray, who had slept with Turing a few times. The burglar had heard Murray talk about his trysts with Turing, and when the police interrogated the burglar, he revealed the illicit nature of Murray and Turing’s relationship. When the police interviewed Turing, he made no attempt to hide his homosexuality from them. Turing eventually pled guilty to indecency, and he was placed on probation and agreed to submit to estrogen treatment—intended to destroy his sex drive—for more than a year.

The Imitation Game implies that the estrogen treatment sent Alan into an emotional tailspin, but Turing seems to have continued his work and social relationships normally during his year of probation. The film also implies that the estrogen treatment triggered Alan’s suicide, but in fact the treatment ended in April 1953, fourteen months before Turing killed himself. Although some modern scholars believe that his death from cyanide poisoning was an accident, Hodges believes that Turing made his suicide deliberately ambiguous so as to spare his mother the pain of believing that her son had killed himself on purpose.

Voir encore:

The Imitation Game (2014)

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley
based on the book ‘Alan Turing: The Enigma’ by Andrew Hodges

REEL FACE: REAL FACE:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing Benedict Cumberbatch
Born: July 19, 1976
Birthplace:
Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Alan Mathison Turing Alan Turing
Born: June 23, 1912
Birthplace: Maida Vale, London, England, UK
Death: June 7, 1954, Wilmslow, Cheshire, England (suicide by poison)
Alex Lawther as Young Alan Turing Alex Lawther
Born: 1995
Birthplace:
Hampshire, England, UK
Young Alan Turing as Teenager Young Alan Turing
(age 16)
Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke Keira Knightley
Born: March 26, 1985
Birthplace:
Teddington, Middlesex, England, UK
Joan Clarke Murray Joan Clarke
Born: June 24, 1917
Birthplace: West Norwood, London, UK
Death: September 4, 1996, Headington, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander Matthew Goode
Born: April 3, 1978
Birthplace:
Exeter, Devon, England, UK
Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander Hugh Alexander
Born: April 19, 1909
Birthplace: Cork, Ireland
Death: February 15, 1974, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, UK
Charles Dance as Commander Alastair Denniston Charles Dance
Born: October 10, 1946
Birthplace:
Redditch, Worcestershire, England, UK
Commander Alexander (Alastair) Guthrie Denniston Commander Alastair Denniston
Born: December 1, 1881
Birthplace: Greenock, Scotland, UK
Death: January 1, 1961, Milford on Sea, Hampshire, England, UK
Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies Mark Strong
Born: August 5, 1963
Birthplace:
London, England, UK
Stewart Menzies Stewart Menzies
Born: January 30, 1890
Birthplace: London, England, UK
Death: May 29, 1968, London, England, UK
Allen Leech as John Cairncross Allen Leech
Born: May 18, 1981
Birthplace:
Killiney, Co. Dublin, Ireland
John Cairncross John Cairncross
Born: July 25, 1913
Birthplace: Lesmahagow, Scotland, UK
Death: October 8, 1995, Herefordshire, UK (stroke)
Matthew Beard as Peter Hilton Matthew Beard
Born: March 25, 1989
Birthplace:
London, England, UK
Peter Hilton Peter Hilton
Born: April 7, 1923
Birthplace: London, England, UK
Death: November 6, 2010, Binghamton, New York, USA
James Northcote as Jack Good James Northcote
Born: October 10, 1987
Birthplace:
London, England, UK
Irving John (Jack) Good Irving John (Jack) Good
Born: December 9, 1916
Birthplace: London, England, UK
Death: April 5, 2009, Radford, Virginia, USA (natural causes)
I’ve now got myself into the kind of trouble that I have always considered to be quite a possibility for me, though I have usually rated it at about 10 to 1 against. I shall shortly be pleading guilty to a charge of sexual offenses with a young man. The story of how it all came to be found out is a long and fascinating one… but I haven’t got time to tell you now. No doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I’ve not found out. -Alan Turing, 1952, Letter to Friend and Colleague Norman Routledge

Questioning the Story:

Is Detective Robert Nock based on a real person?No. « Detective Nock is a fake name – he was named after my old roommate, » says screenwriter Graham Moore. « He gives us another perspective … we can see how a normal person, not a bad person, could end up doing this horrible thing to Alan. We didn’t want to create this story of Alan being a sad character that bad things happened to, so we decided to show his final years through the perspective of this fictional detective. … Nock is not a bad person, not an evil person. The terrible thing that happened to Turing was not his fault and was deeply unfair and the injustice of that is something we all have to reckon with. » Robert Nock is the only character in the movie with a fake name. -Tumblr (imitationgamemovie)

Did the police uncover Turing’s homosexuality while investigating him for being a possible Soviet spy?No. Here The Imitation Game deviates significantly from the true story. The real Alan Turing was not investigated for being a possible Soviet spy. Turing himself had reported a petty theft to the police, not a neighbor who heard noises. He changed the details of his story to cover up a relationship he was having with the suspected culprit, 19-year-old Arnold Murray. Instead of first suspecting Turing of espionage like in the movie, the police immediately honed in on Turing for violating the law of gross indecency due to his homosexual relationship with Murray. -The Guardian

Alan Turing and Benedict Cumberbatch
Genealogists have discovered that the real Alan Turing (left) and his onscreen counterpart, actor Benedict Cumberbatch (right), are related. They are 17th cousins dating back to John Beaufort, the first Earl of Somerset, who was born in approximately 1373. -Ancestry.com

Was Alan Turing really put on trial for being gay?Yes. The Imitation Game true story confirms that on March 31, 1952, British authorities put Alan Turing on trial for indecency because he had homosexual relations with a 19-year-old man named Arnold Murray, twenty years his junior. Homosexuality was a crime in Great Britain in the early 1950s, falling under gross indecency in Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. To avoid jail time for his indecency conviction, Turing underwent chemical castration in the form of a year’s worth of estrogen (stilboestrol) injections designed to reduce his libido. In addition to rendering him impotent, another side effect of the hormone therapy was that Turing developed gynaecomastia, or an enlarged chest (breasts). On June 7, 1954, approximately a year after his hormone treatments ended, Turing killed himself by eating an apple that he had likely injected with cyanide. We say « likely » because the apple was never tested for cyanide, though it was speculated that this was the delivery method. -Alan Turing: The Enigma

The general public became familiar with the name Alan Turing after learning of his indecency conviction and suicide. It would be years before they learned that he was also largely responsible for outsmarting the Nazis. -Tumblr (imitationgamemovie)

Was Alan Turing’s codebreaking machine really named Christopher?No. The Imitation Game true story reveals that the name of the real codebreaking machine was less personal. Unlike the movie, it was not named Christopher after Turing’s late friend and first love, teenage companion Christopher Morcom (Morcom was a real teenage friend who Alan met at Sherborne School). Instead, Turing’s machine was called the Bombe, named after an earlier Polish version of the codebreaking machine. Like in the movie, Turing created a much improved version of the Polish machine. The U.S. eventually produced its own equivalents, but they were engineered differently than the British Bombe created by Alan Turing and his team. -Empire Magazine

Jack Bannon and Christopher Morcom
Actor Jack Bannon (left) portrays Alan Turing’s friend Christopher Morcom (right), who died suddenly in 1930.

Did Alan’s friend Christopher really die suddenly of bovine tuberculosis?Yes. The real Alan Turing met Christopher Morcom at Sherborne School, the boys’ school in Dorset, England, which Alan attended as a teenager. The two became good friends, sharing an interest in math and chemistry (not codes and ciphers). Morcom, who was a year older, did die suddenly of bovine tuberculosis, which he had contracted as a small boy from drinking infected cows’ milk. However, the headmaster did not coldly tell Turing of Morcom’s February 13, 1930 death after Morcom had already passed away. In real life, ‘Ben’ Davis, the junior housemaster, had sent Turing a note earlier that day and told him to prepare for the worst. Turing also did not pretend that he had barely known Morcom. In real life, Turing’s friends and family knew that he was devastated, and he even became close to Morcom’s family after his passing. -Alan Turing: The Enigma

Was Alan’s attraction to Christopher a mutual attraction? Not likely. Though The Imitation Game movie implies that Christopher is also attracted to Alan, Andrew Hodges’ biography indicates otherwise. Alan wrote of making it a point to sit next to Christopher in every class, stating that Christopher « made some of the remarks I was afraid of (I know better now) about the coincidence but seemed to welcome me in a passive way. » Hodges again talks of Christopher’s passivity toward Alan, stating that he gradually took Alan seriously, but always with « considerable reserve. » In his writings, Alan indicates that Christopher was aware of his feelings, « Chris knew I think so well how I liked him, but hated me shewing it, » indicating that while Chris liked the attention, Alan’s affection went unrequited. -Alan Turing: The Enigma

Did Turing come up with the design for the codebreaking machine on his own?No. Unlike the movie, Alan Turing didn’t come up with the design for the improved Bombe machine on his own. Gordon Welchman, a mathematician who is not mentioned in the film, collaborated with Turing. -Alan Turing: The Enigma

Did Alan Turing’s codebreaking machine look like the one in the movie?For the most part, yes. However, the real codebreaking machine, the Bombe, was housed in a Bakelite box. Production designer Maria Djurkovic and her team researched the working replica that is on display at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, England. « Our version of the machine had to look convincing, » says Djurkovic. She and director Morten Tyldum decided to reveal the machine’s inner workings. They also added more red cables to give the audience the feeling that blood was pumping through its veins. -Tumblr (imitationgamemovie)

Turing Bombe Machine and Christopher Machine (movie)
Alan Turing’s real Bombe machine (top) at Bletchley Park in 1943. The machine’s name was changed to Christopher for the movie (bottom) and more red cables were added to mimic veins pumping blood through the machine.

Is there a secret URL hidden in an Imitation Game teaser trailer?Yes. The secret URL is in the form of an IP address and is hidden in the teaser trailer titled « Are You Paying Attention« . The URL can be spotted at the trailer’s 4-second mark when actor Benedict Cumberbatch asks, « Are you paying attention? » Look for the IP 146.148.62.204.

The link challenges you to complete a crossword puzzle based on the one that the real Alan Turing published in the London Daily Telegraph in 1942 in an effort to recruit more codebreakers for his team. Turing invited anyone who could complete the crossword puzzle in 12 minutes or less to apply for a job. In the movie, one of these individuals is Joane Clarke (Keira Knightley), who ends up being the only female applicant in a room full of men. Like Alan Turing’s challenge, you are given a specific amount of time to complete the crossword puzzle found through the URL. Do you have what it takes to be a Turing codebreaker?

Was Joan Clarke really hired at Bletchley Park after solving a crossword puzzle in the newspaper?No. The real Joan Clarke’s introduction to Turing’s team at Bletchley Park was less exciting than Keira Knightley’s character’s experience in the movie. In real life, Joan Clarke was already employed at Bletchley Park performing clerical duties. She had been recruited by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC & CS). A former math wiz at Cambridge, her mathematical talents were again noticed at Bletchley, and she was promoted to work with the group in Hut 8, led by Alan Turing. Andrew Hodges’ biography also states that Joan Clarke had actually already met Alan Turing previously at Cambridge.

Did the Soviet spy, John Cairncross, really work with Alan Turing?No. Our research into The Imitation Game true story exposed the fact that although John Cairncross did work at Bletchley Park and admitted to being a Soviet spy in 1951, he did not work as part of Alan Turing’s group. « Their relationship is invented, » says author Andrew Hodges. It is unlikely that they ever even had contact with one another, since communication between sections at Bletchley was very limited. In the movie, after Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) discovers that John Cairncross (Allen Leech) is a Soviet spy, Cairncross blackmails Turing by threatening to reveal his sexuality. -The Sunday Times

Alan Turing Marathon Race Runner
As shown in the movie, Alan Turing (right) was a capable long-distance runner and often used running as a way to get the stress of his job as a codebreaker out of his mind.

Was Alan Turing really engaged to Joan Clarke?Yes. In the movie, we see Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) ask Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) to marry him as a way to keep her at Bletchley Park, since her parents want her to move on with her life and find a husband. Though Turing does tell Joan about his attraction to men, in the film he only breaks off the engagement after John Cairncross, the Soviet spy, threatens to reveal that Turing is gay, which could in turn negatively affect Joan.

In real life, Alan Turing’s marriage proposal in the spring of 1941 wasn’t a ploy to keep Joan at Bletchley Park. He also didn’t break off the engagement as the result of pressure from a Soviet spy. The real Joan Clarke says that the two were interested in one another, despite their relationship lacking a certain physical element. Turing even arranged their shifts so they could work together. They went on dates to the cinema and other places, and despite there not being much physical contact, they did kiss. Turing introduced Joan to his family. Author Andrew Hodges states in his Turing biography that « the idea that marriage should include a mutual sexual satisfaction was still a modern one, which had not yet replaced the older idea of marriage as a social duty. »

During an interview found in the 1992 BBC Horizon episode « The Strange Life and Death of Dr. Turing, » Joan says that Alan told her about his « homosexual tendency » the day after he proposed. « Naturally, that worried me a bit, » admits Joan, « because I did know that was something which was almost certainly permanent, but we carried on. » A fellow member of Turing’s team called their relationship « quite delightful » and said that they were « very sweet together. » Though there was talk of the future, including children, their engagement did not survive past the summer of 1941. Turing used an Oscar Wilde poem to break things off. -BBC Horizon

Gay and Lesbian news outlets criticized an early draft of The Imitation Game script, accusing the filmmakers of « straight-washing » the story. Black Bear Pictures rejected the allegations, issuing a statement that said, « There is not – and never has been – a version of our script where Alan Turing is anything other than homosexual. »

Did Turing’s team only pass along a percentage of the decoded messages?Yes, but the movie’s account of how the group decided which decoded messages to pass along to British forces is fictional. In the film, Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his team crack Enigma but hold off on telling their superiors for fear that the Germans will become suspicious and change the code. After they decide against passing along intercepted information about an impending attack on a British convoy, Turing goes to Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) and together they come up with a system for deciding which cracked messages should be passed along to the British Army, Navy and RAF.

In reality, it was Menzies duty to come up with a method for deciding what percentage of gathered intelligence should be passed along. -The Telegraph

German Enigma Machine in Imitation Game Movie
Each letter pressed on the German Enigma machine (pictured above in the movie) caused a corresponding ciphertext letter to light up above the keyboard. Several rotors (usually 3 or 4) could be adjusted to reset the encryption, a process that would determine which letter corresponded to which ciphertext letter.

Was Alan Turing accused of treason and cowardice for not revealing Soviet spy John Cairncross?No. As indicated above, the relationship between Alan Turing and John Cairncross was invented by the filmmakers. During our investigation into The Imitation Game true story, we learned that Turing and Cairncross did not work in the same section at Bletchley Park, and given that the groups at Bletchley were somewhat isolated from one another, it is highly unlikely that these two men ever met in real life, an idea that Turing biographer Andrew Hodges called « ludicrous. » This fictional addition to the film, which finds Turing withholding the fact that Cairncross was a Soviet spy, has generated a significant amount of controversy and criticism, namely in that it places accusations of treason upon Turing. -The Guardian

Did Joan Clarke visit Alan Turing after the war?No. Andrew Hodges’ biography states that Alan wrote to Joan and told her that he had been found out, but there is no mention of Joan coming to visit Alan. At the time of his letter, Joan was engaged to be married, as Keira Knightley’s character is when she visits Alan (Benedict Cumberbatch) in the movie.

Is there a reason why we don’t see Alan Turing’s suicide in the film?On June 7, 1954, roughly a year after he underwent « chemical castration » (estrogen injections) as a way of avoiding prison time for his indecency conviction, Alan Turning ingested an apple that he had likely laced with cyanide (it is speculated that the half-eaten apple was the delivery method, though it was never tested). Biographer Andrew Hodges suggested that he was re-enacting a scene from the 1937 Walt Disney movie Snow White, his favorite fairy tale. The Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum did film the suicide scene, but it did not make the final cut of the film. In real life, Turing’s housekeeper found him dead in his bed, with the half-eaten apple next to him on his bedside table (BBC News).

« We never wanted to see him commit suicide on screen, » says Graham Moore, the film’s screenwriter. « This film was about paying attention to Alan Turing’s tremendous life and his amazing accomplishments. It felt to us more ethical and more responsible to focus on his life and his accomplishments than the nitty-gritty of his suicide. » –Tumblr (imitationgamemovie)

Alan Turing Snow White Poison Apple
Did Alan Turing take his own life by re-enacting a scene from the film Snow White, his favorite fairy tale?

Is it possible that Alan Turing’s death was not a suicide?Though the investigation and the coroner’s verdict ruled the death a suicide, some believe that the death was caused by the accidental inhalation of cyanide fumes from a device used for electroplating spoons with gold. Turing’s mother, Ethel, also believed his death was accidental (Alan Turing: The Enigma). « His mother wrote to me, » says the real Joan Clarke, « and she said that although it was a verdict of suicide, she believed it an accident, and of course, his method was chosen to make it possible for some at least to believe that. » -BBC Horizon

Was the Apple company logo inspired by the apple associated with poisoning Alan Turing?No. This is just an urban legend. Apple has denied any correlation. -Empire Magazine

Was The Imitation Game movie filmed at the real Bletchley Park?The only scenes that were actually shot at the real Bletchley Park (located in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England) took place at the bar. This includes Turing’s eureka moment, the engagement party scene, and his confession to John Cairncross about being gay. Other parts of the movie were filmed at Alan Turing’s childhood school, where his picture is still on the wall (Tumblr – imitationgamemovie). Members of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) first visited Bletchley Park in 1938 and returned in 1939 to set up their operation. The park has since been converted into a museum, which opened its doors to the public in 1993 (BletchleyPark.org.uk).

Voir enfin:

Alan Turing: one of The Great Philosophers

Andrew Hodges

Part 4 of Turing: a natural philosopher  (1997)

Thinking the Uncomputable
Turing then studied at Princeton for two academic years, with a break back at Cambridge in summer 1937. It was a period of intense activity at a world centre of mathematics. Turing was overoptimistic in thinking he could rewrite the foundations of analysis, and added nothing to the remarks about limits and convergence given in On Computable Numbers. (One reason for this might be the following: if x and y are computable numbers, as specified as Turing machines, the truth of the statements x=y, or x=0 cannot tested by a computable process.) But besides wide-ranging research in analysis, topology and algebra, and the ‘laborious’ work of showing the equivalence of his definition of computability with those of Church and Gödel, he extended the exploration of the logic of mental activity with a paper Systems of Logic based on Ordinals [5].This, his most difficult paper, is much less well known than his definition of computability. It is generally regarded as a diversion from his line of thought on computability, computers and the philosophy of mind, and I fell into this assumption in Alan Turing: the Enigma, essentially because I followed Turing’s own later standpoint. But I now consider that at the time, Turing saw himself steaming straight ahead with the analysis of the mind, by studying a question complementary to On Computable Numbers. Turing asked in this paper whether it is possible to formalise those actions of the mind which are not those of following a definite method — mental actions one might call creative or original in nature. In particular, Turing focussed on the action of seeing the truth of one of Gödel’s unprovable assertions.

Gödel had shown that when we see the truth of an unprovable proposition, we cannot be doing so by following given rules. The rules may be augmented so as to bring this particular proposition into their ambit, but then there will be yet another true proposition that is not captured by the new rules of proof, and so on ad infinitum. The question arises as to to whether there is some higher type of rule which can organise this process of ‘Gödelisation.’ An ordinal logic is such a rule, based on the theory of ordinal numbers, the very rich and subtle theory of different ways in which an infinite number of entities may be placed in sequence. An ordinal logic turns the idea of ‘and so on ad infinitum’ into a precise formulation. Turing wrote that: ‘The purpose of introducing ordinal logics is to avoid as far as possible the effects of Gödel’s theorem.’ The uncomputable could not be made computable, but ordinal logics would bring it into as much order as was possible.

Turing’s work, in which he proved important (though somewhat negative) results about such logical schemes, founded a new area of mathematical logic. But the motivation, as he himself stated it, was in mental philosophy. As in On Computable Numbers, he was unafraid of using psychological terms, this time the word ‘intuition’ appearing for the act of recognising the truth of an unprovable Gödel sentence:

Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically as the combination of two faculties, which we may call intuition and ingenuity. The activity of the intuition consists in making spontaneous judgments which are not the result of conscious trains of reasoning. These judgments are often but by no means invariably correct (leaving aside the question what is meant by ‘correct’). Often it is possible to find some other way of verifying the correctness of an intuitive judgment. We may, for instance, judge that all positive integers are uniquely factorizable into primes; a detailed mathematical argument leads to the same result. This argument will also involve intuitive judgments, but they will be less open to criticism than the original judgment about factorization. I shall not attempt to explain this idea of ‘intuition’ any more explicitly.

The exercise of ingenuity in mathematics consists in aiding the intuition through suitable arrangements of propositions, and perhaps geometrical figure or drawings. It is intended that when these are really well arranged the validity of the intuitive steps which are required cannot seriously be doubted.
Turing then explains how the axiomatization of mathematics was originally intended to eliminate all intuition, but Gödel had shown that to be impossible. The Turing machine construction had shown how to make all formal proofs ‘mechanical’; and in the present paper such mechanical operations were to be taken as trivial, instead putting under the microscope the non-mechanical steps which remained.In consequence of the impossibility of finding a formal logic which wholly eliminates the necessity of using intuition, we naturally turn to ‘non-constructive’ systems of logic with which not all the steps in a proof are mechanical, some being intuitive. An example of a non-constructive logic is afforded by any ordinal logic… What properties do we desire a non-constructive logic to have if we are to make use of it for the expression of mathematical proofs? We want it to show quite clearly when a step makes use of intuition, and when it is purely formal. The strain put on the intuition should be a minimum. Most important of all, it must be beyond doubt that the logic shall be adequate for the expression of number-theoretic theorems…
It is not clear how literally Turing meant the identification with ‘intuition’ to be taken. Probably his ideas were fluid, and he added a cautionary footnote: ‘We are leaving out of account that most important faculty which distinguishes topics of interest from others; in fact we are regarding the function of the mathematician as simply to determine the truth or falsity of propositions.’ But the evidence is that at this time he was open to the idea that in moments of ‘intuition’ the mind appears to do something outside the scope of the Turing machine. If so, he was not alone: Gödel and Post held this view.

Turing and Wittgenstein
As it happened, Turing’s views were probed by the leading philosopher of the time at just this point. Unfortunately their recorded conversations shed no light upon Turing’s view of mind and machine. Turing was introduced to Wittgenstein in summer 1937, and when Turing returned to Cambridge for the autumn term of 1938, he attended Wittgenstein’s lectures — more a Socratic discussion group — on the Foundations of Mathematics. These were noted by the participants and have been reconstructed and published. [6] There is a curious similarity of the style of speech — plain speaking and argument by question and answer — but they were on different wavelengths. In a dialogue at the heart of the sequence they debated the significance of axiomatizing mathematics and the problems that had arisen in doing so:Wittgenstein:… Think of the case of the Liar. It is very queer in a way that this should have puzzled anyone — much more extraordinary than you might think… Because the thing works like this: if a man says ‘I am lying’ we say that it follows that he is not lying, from which it follows that he is lying and so on. Well, so what? You can go on like that until you are black in the face. Why not? It doesn’t matter. …it is just a useless language-game, and why should anyone be excited?
Turing: What puzzles one is that one usually uses a contradiction as a criterion for having done something wrong. But in this case one cannot find anything done wrong.
W: Yes — and more: nothing has been done wrong, … where will the harm come?
T: The real harm will not come in unless there is an application, in which a bridge may fall down or something of that sort.
W: … The question is: Why are people afraid of contradictions? It is easy to understand why they should be afraid of contradictions, etc., outside mathematics. The question is: Why should they be afraid of contradictions inside mathematics? Turing says, ‘Because something may go wrong with the application.’ But nothing need go wrong. And if something does go wrong — if the bridge breaks down — then your mistake was of the kind of using a wrong natural law. …
T: You cannot be confident about applying your calculus until you know that there are no hidden contradictions in it.
W: There seems to me an enormous mistake there. … Suppose I convince Rhees of the paradox of the Liar, and he says, ‘I lie, therefore I do not lie, therefore I lie and I do not lie, therefore we have a contradiction, therefore 2 x 2 = 369.’ Well, we should not call this ‘multiplication,’ that is all…
T: Although you do not know that the bridge will fall if there are no contradictions, yet it is almost certain that if there are contradictions it will go wrong somewhere.
W: But nothing has ever gone wrong that way yet…
Turing’s responses reflect mainstream mathematical thought and practice, rather than showing his distinctive characteristics and original ideas. In 1938, it should be noted, he was an untenured research fellow whose first application for a lectureship had failed, and whose chance of a conventional career lay in the mathematics studied and taught at Cambridge. His work in logic was but a part of his output, by no means well known. His Fellowship was for work in probability theory; his papers were in analysis and algebra. That year, he made a significant step in the analysis of the Riemann zeta-function, a topic in complex analysis and number theory at the heart of classical pure mathematics.

Getting statements free from contradictions is the very essence of mathematics. Turing perhaps thought Wittgenstein did not take seriously enough the unobvious and difficult questions that had arisen in the attempt to formalize mathematics; Wittgenstein thought Turing did not take seriously the question of why one should want to formalize mathematics at all.

There are no letters or notes which indicate subsequent contact between Turing and Wittgenstein, and no evidence that Wittgenstein influenced Turing’s concept of machines or mind. If influence in the next ten years is sought, it should be found in the Second World War and Turing’s amazing part in it.

[5] Systems of logic based on ordinals, Proc. Lond. Math. Soc (2) 45 pp 161-228 (1939).
This was also Turing’s Princeton Ph.D. thesis (1938). (See also the Bibliography on this site.)
[6] C. Diamond (ed.) Wittgenstein’s Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics (Harvester Prerss, 1976). The quoted dialogue is extracted from lectures 21 and 22.

2 commentaires pour Imitation game: Attention, un martyr peut en cacher un autre (Hollywood fails the Turing test)

  1. […] que de Moïse à Turing et de Solomon Northup à Martin Luther King, Hollywood sytématiquement l’histoire […]

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  2. […] le nazisme par les montagnes suisses, premier film bondage sur l’esclavage, fausse accusation d’espionnage, diffamation d’un président américain […]

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